Opportunity Sol 800 (Spirit Sol 822)

It's sol EIGHT FREAKING HUNDRED on Opportunity today. (Somewhere in there, by the way, they used the target name "Fort Scott" -- a stop on one of the Old West trails -- and I missed it! Darn!) Eight hundred sols, and we're still driving -- and driving, and driving. We've just come out of restricted sols, and the plan for at least the next four sols is to drive every sol.

Which is just fine with me and Jeng. So we plan your basic 50m drive, composed of about 30m of eastward traverse (including two ripple crossings) and then a southward segment with autonav.

We also spend some time discussing Jeng's "RP Lessons Learned" assignment. This was a terrific idea by Chris Leger to identify a bunch of past sols where we'd screwed something up, and set the sequences in front of the newer RPs (each of them paired with a more experienced RP) and make them figure out what we'd done wrong. And, for extra added bonus evil, they then have to present what they learned to the whole IST team. The idea is to increase their general skill level, as well as making them more paranoid. It seems to be working.

Jeng's not really a new RP -- not like Ashley or Matt -- but he got his share of sols anyway, and I was paired with him. And one of his sols was the Mazatzal approach.

Oh, yes, the Mazatzal approach. As if I could forget. I've been feeling terrible about it for two years now.

I feel a little better when I see Jeng struggling to figure out what's wrong with it. It's not schadenfreude, it's just that I realize now how tough it actually was. The problems are subtle ones. First, we misjudged the amount of slip we were likely to see. Second, we aimed for a position where we'd just be able to reach the Mazatzal features of interest -- but since we knew we'd slip, we should have commanded the rover to go farther, so that we'd tend to slip toward the edge of reachability but maybe not out of it.

Just seeing that Jeng is having this much trouble -- and he's got a lot of experience now -- starts to heal that old wound a bit. And when we talk about it and he sees the problems, he makes me feel even better. "That was tough!" he exclaims. "And back then, we couldn't use visodom because of that bogus update on Opportunity. Without a way for the rover to correct for slip, how were you supposed to get this?" He shakes his head. "You should give yourself more credit."

It's nice to realize that in two years, I have learned to give myself more credit. And I think I'll take his advice and practice the skill now. That won't go into the presentation, but it might be the most important lesson this RP has learned.

[Next post: sol 825 (Opportunity sol 804), April 29.]

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