Opportunity Sol 836 (Spirit Sol 857)

Jeng has to leave early for personal reasons. He was RP-1, I was RP-2, and Matt was shadowing, so I step in as RP-1 and Matt as RP-2. It's like a well-oiled machine.

This weekend, we had a little excitement on Opportunity: she got herself embedded in another ripple.[1] It's just like it was back at Purgatory, only not as bad: having learned our lesson from Purgatory, we had a slip check that stopped us before things got too hairy. Nevertheless, we're jammed in there pretty well, and it's going to take a bit of work to get ourselves out.

Today, we're just starting that process, commanding 5m of driving straight ahead. We'll take high-quality before-and-after pictures, along with a whole bunch of lower-res images in between. If we're lucky, we'll make about 1cm of progress. But it'll be just about the best-documented 1cm drive ever.

[Next post: sol 863, June 7.]

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. Aw, crap. Not this again.


[1] This ripple was later named "Jammerbugt," after a Danish municipality, for some reason known only to Steve Squyres. I had recently been promoted to the rover driver team lead, and one of my first responsibilities was to lead the anomaly investigation into the Jammerbugt embedding.

I had lots of fun with this assignment -- my final slide included a picture of Captain Kirk ("Risk ... is our business") alongside a quote from Jim Erickson ("What I don't want to see is that we lose our nerve"). But more importantly, the investigation turned up something called the "Sullivan Asymmetry," which we named for Rob Sullivan, the science team member who noticed it and told us about it.

It turns out that the ripples were softer on one side and harder on the other, because as the Martian wind blew across them, almost always in the same direction, it deposited softer material on the leading side and harder material on the trailing side. This knowledge would help us avoid future embedding events because it meant that when in doubt, there was always a harder-packed side we could swerve toward. While that wouldn't have prevented this particular embedding (the root cause was a miscommunication between teams, and we solved that in a different way), it probably did prevent lots of future embeddings.

Oh, and one more thing about Jammerbugt. Rover driver Paolo Bellutta called it "Britney Spears Ripple" -- "Oops, I Did It Again." Funny as hell, but I decreed that we are not naming anything on Mars for that person, and that was that.

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