Opportunity Sol 1000 (Spirit Sol 1019)

I called dibs on the Opportunity "Now Planning Sol 1000" sheet -- and got it. So I have the set.

Dibs is a very powerful concept.

I shouldn't actually be working today, but Sharon, who's our team chief and therefore handles the schedules (among many other things), is a woman of her word. They changed when they were going to plan sol 1000 -- that was originally scheduled to be tomorrow, but for complicated reasons they decided to plan it a day in advance, so it's getting done today. Sharon had promised me I'd get to work on sol 1000 on both rovers, so as soon as she heard about the change, she came to me to alert me to it, and see who I wanted to bump so I'd be on shift.

Jeng and Antonio were RP-1 and RP-2, and Tara was shadowing. So who did I want to bump off the list? Well, what kind of a person would I be -- what kind of a team lead would I be -- if I took away the fun of planning sol 1000 from someone else? So I had Sharon add me to the list as a second shadow.

And here I am, shadowing, as we drive Opportunity to the rim of Victoria once again. It's a short drive, and one we can do without a lot of uncertainty, using VO all the way. But certain people (Cindy Oda) have been freaking out whenever we drive up to the rim, and today is no exception.

So today I try a new approach. I start trying to compare the drive to things people can see around them. We're driving less than the width of the room we're in, a little more than the length of our conference table. I measure the size of the carpet squares; they're a little more than a half meter on a side. Walt Hoffman has a great idea: we've got a couple of 3m network cables lying around, which gives you a handy way to measure 3m (our distance from the rim), 1.5m, and 1m, at least.

I think this helps. It gives people something more concrete -- being able to say "We'd have to be wrong by the length of this 3m network cable, on a drive the length of this conference table" is pretty effective.

So everything proceeds apace. Until John Callas shows up late in the day and starts asking the same questions all over. And even that is going fine until Justin Maki -- a level-headed, bright, and valuable guy -- starts winding Callas up. "Well, what if we had two meters of range error in the NAVCAMs you're using for the drive?" Justin asks. Two meters of error? This is just absurd, and very much out of character for Justin. A realistic number for range error over that distance is maybe 8cm.

But John Callas doesn't know any of this, and it's his ass if something bad happens. So that's a painful conversation.

John Wright is listening to all this, and doesn't say much. Except, when it's all over (and we've cut the drive short another 50cm for no good goddamn reason), he tries to make me feel better about it. In his way. "Spirit's probably not going to survive another Martian winter," he points out. And he's right, we barely made it this time. "So keep Opportunity safe," he continues.

Yeah. I see his point. I mean, we were keeping her safe before, but ... yeah. I see his point.

Oh, well, we're still going to enter sol 1000 with a hell of a view. As is his wont, Jim Erickson pops by to see how things are going. "We're planning sol 1000 today!" I tell him brightly.

He looks down his nose at me, mock-snide. "Talk to me when you get to sol 10,000," he says.

Don't think I won't, Jim!

[Next post: sol 1024, November 19.]

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