Spirit Sol 1082

"According to Brenda," Khaled tells me, "we're doing a tool change from MB to APXS, and that's it for the three sols."

Khaled and Brenda turn out to be right. You could say it's an easy sol.

But in our wonted way, we put the spare time to good use. At my request, Paolo has started to lay out an approach back to Tyrone, the spot where we bogged down on the way to McCool Hill. We won't be going into the scary soft stuff, but we're going to try to get close enough for the MTES to get good pictures of the unusually high-sulfur sand we churned up there. Then we'll turn around and head for Home Plate.

So we stand in front of this enormous printout of the winter panorama, and start drawing imaginary lines on it. Yeah, we could follow our old tracks here, but that would take us too close to these big rocks with a not-terribly-maneuverable rover. So we have to go this way, but we'll have to watch out so we don't anchor the wheel on this cluster of pebbles over here. We should drive to that mound, no farther, and halfway there we should assess whether to do a wide U-turn that intersects the mound or just go all the way and do a sharp turn once we're there.

That kind of thing.

Now here's a joke you really have to be on MER to get. "Hey, Rich," I say to Rich Morris. "You know how I told you you should write a song and call it the Rat Brush Jam?"

"Yeah," he laughs.

"Well, you should make up a dance to go with it, and call it the Solar Array Stomp."

The whole room cracks up.

"My joy is tainted only by my depression that I didn't think of that first," Rich says.

It would be a terrific day if it weren't for some bad news I get, confidentially, at the end. Sharon and I are talking about some rover-driving issues, and she tells me quietly something I need to know about the importance of getting things right on the Spirit drives.

"NASA HQ thinks Spirit is useless," she says bluntly. "They might shut her off in October. So it's that much more important that we have some visible successes."

Well, that's good to know.

But shut her off? Over my dead body.

[Next post: sol 1085, January 21.]

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