Opportunity Sol 857 (Spirit Sol 878)

Sure enough, we got about 40m out of the previous drive -- not yestersol, but the sol before, since we're in restricted sols. We're now about 776m to Victoria, and only 304m to Beagle. Thisol, we're gonna step on the gas a little, and shoot for about 50m.

We've got a guest driver helping us. His name is Kelly Wills. He's spending the summer at JPL, working on an MSL task -- trying to reduce the power requirements of one of their instruments. He's from Ohio, he just graduated from high school, and he's blind.

I try to remember what I was doing the summer after I graduated from high school. I'm pretty sure it wasn't anything like that, though. And I'm not even blind.

Man, do I suck.

This somehow gets Paolo and me talking about our other, non-MER tasks. I remind him that he's not allowed to leave MER, and he assures me there's no danger of that. "There will be four people here to switch off the last workstation," he says. "Mark Maimone, Steve Squyres, you, and me."

I can't speak for the other three, but he's right about me, at least.

Speaking of Steve Squyres ... he's our friendly SOWG chair today, and something happens today that makes me suspect I'm not a complete waste of water and trace chemicals. During the B-833 anomaly investigation, it came to my attention that several of the RPs, particularly newer ones such as Paolo, had trouble standing up to pressure from the science team, particularly Steve. In my new role as the RP team lead, I urged them to stand up to this pressure, pointing out, among other things, that Steve pushes and expects you to push back when he's pushed too far -- and you shouldn't disappoint him.

So, at the APAM, Steve, smelling a long drive, says something about "putting in as many slip checks as duration allows." And Paolo says simply, "I think I will use a different philosophy: we'll use as many slip checks as we need to be safe, and we'll let the distance be what it is."

I coulda kissed him!

Oh, and speaking of water and trace chemicals .... (I really am the King of the Segues!) Steve also relates a recent science find. Concentrated calcium salts, plus zinc, plus hematite, all in one location -- the implication being, maybe, hydrothermal hot springs.


The other news is not so good. Opportunity's MB has lost its reference channel, which carries internal calibration data. That doesn't make the instrument useless, as we can still calibrate it against the external calibration target mounted above the IDD's stowed position. But it raises a disturbing possibility, one that Matt Heverly points out: combined with the recent transient failures we've seen when commanding the MI, it might be that we're seeing a degradation of the flex cabling that carries power and data along the IDD. If that failed, we might lose the IDD a whole lot sooner.

Fortunately, Matt came to JPL from ASI -- the company that built the IDD. And he knows the guy who was in charge of the flex cabling. "I'll shoot him an email," Matt says.

I love that. If you heard a knock coming from under the hood of your car, wouldn't you love to be able to just email the guy who built the engine?

[Next post: sol 882 (Opportunity sol 863), June 27.]

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