Opportunity Sol 943 (Spirit Sol 964)

The bad news is, we're starting at 7 AM -- which means that I and the MM and TUL and SOWG chair and a few others have to start even earlier, about 6:30. The good news is, this is the last time we do that, ever. Our much-loathed 7 AM starts are now a thing of the past; no more starting before 8. Well, those of us who have to be a bit earlier will start at 7:30. But it beats 6:30, I'll tell you that.

Since I can hardly focus anyway, it's a good thing today's drive is a simple one. We plan 57m, dead at Victoria Crater, stopping midway to image a smaller crater called Kitty Clyde's Sister. This drive cuts our distance to Victoria roughly in half: we should be about 51m away when we're done.

From 108m away, the 800m-wide Victoria crater is the broadside of a barn. Even starting at 6:30 AM, we couldn't miss it with our eyes closed.

[Next post: sol 978 (Opportunity sol 957), October 3.]


Opportunity Sol 938 (Spirit Sol 958)

I'm not on shift today, but this is something I couldn't leave out. As part of my investigation of the Jammerbugt anomaly, I suggested that we reinstate the practice of having the science team periodically brief the engineers on recent science findings. Today's the first installment of that, being kicked off by Steve Squyres himself.

There's way too much to summarize here -- and I didn't bother taking many notes anyway, since they were filming it -- but a couple of things stood out for me:

"Mars is a terrible place -- the average daily temperature is -60C. All the water vapor in the atmosphere would form a layer a hundredth of a millimeter thick."


"Meridiani and Gusev were the two best-studied places on Mars before landing. We had Odyssey, MGS, Viking data. And we had 'em both completely wrong! We expected volcanic rock at Meridiani and sedimentary layers at Gusev."
(What we found, of course, was basically the reverse. Shows the value of surface data to complement orbital data!)

[Next post: sol 964 (Opportunity sol 943), September 19.]


Opportunity Sol 931 (Spirit Sol 954)

We're still not out of the dead of winter, and thus still not out of the woods. Daily energy levels aren't rising -- but they seem to have shallowed out, at least. At the same time, tau (atmospheric opacity) has spiked, and a more opaque atmosphere is bad news for solar-powered rovers.

However, tau has been on the low side lately, and is now only about average for this time of year, so it's nothing to worry about. As Oded points out, we mustn't panic about one measurement; we should wait to see if it's a sustained spike and one that causes power to drop.

And what are we going to do about it if it is rising, anyway? Go fly around with a vacuum cleaner and hoover the Martian atmosphere? No, we'll have to imitate a vacuum in another way, and just suck it up.

[Next post: sol 958 (Opportunity sol 938), September 13.]