Opportunity Sol 961 (Spirit Sol 982)

Today we're continuing the pre-conjunction IDD activity to execute during conjunction. In one of those wonderful happy-fun-time events, there are two RAT targets -- and neither of them really works, thanks in part to wonky data in the terrain mesh caused by shadowing. We end up taking another image of the currently shadowed area, with modified image parameters that we hope will improve range data, and in the meantime we do what we can with what we have.

That turns out to be a huge pain. When at last we get something that seems to be working, we run into a joint limit on the APXS and have to start looking around for alternatives. But the alternatives that are RATtable have even worse problems, so we go back to the first target. Eventually we tweak the normal so that we can place all instruments there, but the tweaked version can't handle more than about a 10N preload from the RAT. That's not nearly enough to brush, to say nothing of grinding -- we need 40N or so. So we keep working on it ....

Eventually, we end up with a two-pronged strategy. Prong one is to choose a target in the shadowed area, despite the poor range data there. Prong two is to cross our fingers.

For the first time in a long time, there's a press conference playing on the TV behind us as we work. It's them science guys, talking about Victoria Crater. One of the images they show illustrates the scale of the crater -- they show the Rose Bowl fitting into it, with room to spare.

Wow. I see why the science team wants to stay here a while. So much to see!

[This is where we had to take a few weeks' break for solar conjunction: a giant flaming ball of gas (no, not Rush Limbaugh, the sun) interposed itself betwixt us and our beloved rovers. That made radio communication impossible for a while and thus interrupted normal planning. Next post: sol 1007, November 2.]

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. Victoria Crater swallows the Rose Bowl.

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