Opportunity Sol 863 (Spirit Sol 882)

I'm in a little early and run into Oded Aharonson, whom I haven't seen in -- well, it's been a while. He's been off in Greenland or Iceland or Norway or something, working on Cryobot, some kind of prototype ice driller they might send to Mars someday.

Which is why I haven't seen him around, of course. Being away from MER seems to have given him a certain perspective on what we're doing -- "shepherding the rovers to their death" is how he puts it. He doesn't mean it in a bad way, and I know exactly what he means, but I have to confess I'm still in denial about that. They're gonna live forever, ya know? Just a few aches and pains, is all. They're fine.

Speaking of those aches and pains ... "How are we at five-wheeled driving?" he asks. "Can we get back up onto Home Plate?"

"I doubt it."[X]

"Circumnavigate Home Plate?"

"That's more likely. Since you bring it up, what's the obsession with Home Plate, anyhow?"

Oded's always animated, but a question like that always stirs the pot. "Home Plate," he explains excitedly, "is the first time we've seen a geological feature we have a chance of explaining, a chance of forming testable hypotheses about. It's not water, but it's still interesting." Ah-hah ... looks like even Oded thinks there might be a little life left in this mission.

Though you might not know it so much by today's plan. We didn't receive sol 860's PCAMs, so we're stuck planning a drive in the NCAMs, and that limits us to about 20m. We don't have any significant IDD work, either, though we do have a bit of IDD checkout at -- oddly enough -- the end of the drive. This being Opportunity, we have our normal post-drive unstow. And after that, we stretch the IDD out a little further to check out a problem with the MB's reference channel.

This is a data stream that feeds calibration data from the MB's internal calibration target into the flight software, so that we have calibrated measurements from that instrument. For some reason, we seem to have lost that data entirely -- possibly some kind of cabling problem. All hope is not lost for that instrument, since we still can place the MB on the rover's external calibration target (just above where the IDD is stowed). But it's one more of those little aches and pains.

The rovers are fine, you know. Just fine. And they're going to stay that way, forever.

[Next post: sol 893, July 8.]


[1] Wrong, of course. Didn't I know better than to bet against Spirit? The next driving season came around, and up onto Home Plate she went.

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