Opportunity Sol 780 (Spirit Sol 801)

Opportunity's schedule will be late for the rest of the week; we're driving every day, and we're not starting until noon or later. So I'll pretty much be in heaven. Since we're devoted to driving this week, we're keeping the science lean; next week we enter restricted sols and the scientists can have their turn again. But for now, the SOWG meetings are short and sweet. This one is over in something like 20 minutes -- not a record, but not too far off.

Downstairs, our sister has good news: Spirit's dragged herself out of the muck. She followed her tracks back out, and while the HAZCAMs show a bit of the white stuff near her new tracks, they also show she's back to making good progress.

Naturally, the next question is, now what? Word is that they've given up on McCool and have decided instead to head for a ridge to the south, which we passed coming in. It's not as far away as Home Plate (or McCool) and not as scientifically interesting as McCool, but we think we can get there, and it has slopes we think we can survive on.

So that's good.

But according to Brenda, the news is not altogether rosy. "John [Wright] thinks we're seeing the last and final days of Spirit," she mourns. "I don't think I want him driving my rover if that's the case."

Well, maybe I'll have to give him a nice pep talk. Meanwhile, I've got my own rover to drive, or anyway, to watch Jeng drive. Thisol's drive couldn't be much more boring -- we could practically do it with a single waypoint -- but I don't mind that now and then.

For one thing, it gives me time to slip out for an interview. Some British guy named Barney is doing a piece for a British engineering association -- I gather it's something like the ACM or the IEEE. They're concerned that British kids aren't sufficiently interested in science and engineering, and they want him to make a video to get the kids hyped up about it.

So I meet him in the von Karman museum, and I get there early enough to watch him do the interview before mine. It's with a very nice and articulate Brazilian scientist we have working here -- Rosalie something, I think, is her name; I've never met her before. If I didn't know better, I'd swear the interviewer guy was kind of hitting on her afterward.

Anyway, then it's my turn. The guy asks me a couple of warmup questions while his two-man crew -- they're brothers -- rearrange the lights so they can shoot me with the rover model in the background. The interview itself seems to go really, really fast, and I don't think I'm at my best, but both he and Natalie (the press office lady who arranged to get me for the interview) are really positive about it, so who knows. I'll see if I can get them to send me a DVD of it, and then maybe I can evaluate it for myself.

I want to stay and watch the presentation that's just starting next door, in the auditorium. It's a couple of teachers from New Hampshire who have worked the rovers into their curriculum. They have their students build LEGO (Mindstorms?) rovers and drive them around in a simulated Martian landscape. I had some great teachers, don't get me wrong, but why couldn't I have had a couple like that?

But I don't have time, so with unaccustomed regret, I trudge back over to the sequencing room. (Okay, it's not that bad!) I'm there for about half an hour when Saina says something about wanting to go to the LEGO talk later this afternoon.

"Later this afternoon? No, it's going on now -- you're missing it," I tell her.

"What?!" she exclaims.

A couple of minutes later, we're all heading over there together to watch what's left of their presentation. It helps to have a mission manager who likes LEGO.

The bad news is, we miss the LEGO part of the presentation. The good news is, they give us a copy -- and accept our invitation to come by the sequencing room and see the real thing. So I give them my usual demo -- which I do flawlessly, best one I've ever done -- and Jeng shows them the cool 3-D glasses, and they're digging us and we're digging them, and it's all a big group hug thing. But in a good way.

[Next post: sol 803 (Opportunity sol 782), April 6.]


Emily Lakdawalla said...

The nice Brazilian scientist was planetary volcanologist extraordinaire Rosaly Lopes.

Scott Maxwell said...

Damn, you're good, Emily! Thanks!

And yes, not that I'm surprised, but you're right -- I followed the link, and that was she.

Emily Lakdawalla said...

There are lots of nice scientists at JPL, and lots of lady scientists at JPL, and probably at least a few Brazilian scientists at JPL, but I think that the intersection of those three sets might possibly be unitary :)