Spirit Sol 908

The plan for the day starts with two 7-deep MI stacks of ripples Spirit hasn't paid too much attention to yet. The stacks are 7 images deep rather than our usual 5 because they don't want us to disturb the soil by touching it with the MB first. This is the start of a longer campaign to get MI coverage of a strip all the way between the two ripples -- a strip I soon begin to call the "Yellow Brick Road," because Rob Sullivan indicates its position with a yellow line in a planning image. The two 7-stacks are all we can afford today, but there's more in our future.

So I have what I think is a clever idea: since we know where the best focus position is likely to be, why not take a gamble? If we did five 3-stacks along the whole Yellow Brick Road, centered where the best-focus position is likely to be, then one of two things would happen. Either we'd get the best-focus images all the way along, in which case we win big, or we get enough information to work out where the best-focus position definitely is, and we come back and do a single strip of images at that best-focus position later. Either way, it's many fewer images than the planned method, and we might even get done in a single day.

Turns out, though, that this is the wrong time for the creative approach. In this case, Rob actually wants the whole 7-stack, including the out-of-focus images, because the terrain has some relief that he wants to be able to study in detail. Best-focus in one image is out-of-focus in another in a case like this. So that brilliant idea is off the table -- this time. But maybe next time.

So we get started down the Yellow Brick Road. (In keeping with the theme, I naturally push for calling our intermediate targets "Dorothy" and "Tin Man." Whee, the fun we have!) As we go along, we keep in touch with Rob, who requested this observation and is now calling in from the road on the way to a family reunion. We get to reminiscing about the nominal mission, when Rob -- one of the few who was even more hard-core than I -- practically tried to stay up 24 hours a day for the whole thing. "I used to roll from rover to rover and just pass out on the floor in the MI room," he laughs. "Hey, we should gather pictures of everyone sleeping!"

Sometimes I kind of feel sorry for the new kids -- such as Antonio, who's shadowing today -- who missed out on the overwhelming fun and excitement of the nominal mission. But at the end of the day, I overhear him on his cell phone, excitedly telling his wife that today he wrote his first sequence for the rover. The bloom isn't off the rose yet.

[Next post: sol 910 (Opportunity sol 890), July 25.]

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