Opportunity Sol 1071 (Spirit Sol 1091)

I have good news and bad news. And good news. And bad news. And good news.

The good news is, we got satisfactory results from our VO test. Wiggle-and-scuff produced good results, so we're going to use that for our drives in this area for a while. (And indeed, it was used for yestesol's drive, which I wasn't on shift for. And it kept working.)

The bad news is, the drunken-sailor test didn't work.

But the good news is, that's due to a simple flight software bug in the command that tells the rover which arcs are allowed. And it's a bug that we can probably compensate for, so drunken-sailor isn't out of the running (or staggering) yet.

The bad news is, we can't take advantage of our success by driving thisol. We need to take PCAM images from this spot before we can move again -- they're needed for long-baseline stereo -- and we need NCAMs to target those PCAMs. And the NCAMs aren't down yet.

The good news is, the NCAMs eventually come down after all -- stuck in a pipe somewhere in the intarweb, or something. Whatever. We're driving!

Well, maybe it's a bit of a stretch to call it a drive. It's just a little 2.5m bump further along this cape. But the wheels are going to turn and they're going to take the vehicle with them; call it what you will.

The simplicity of the sequence leaves me time for chatting about an upcoming radio interview I'm doing. They've asked for the top five moments in the mission. "I've got Spirit's landing, Opportunity's landing, Spirit at the top of Husband Hill, Opportunity at Victoria ... and I'm taking suggestions for the last one," I announce.

There's no shortage of suggestions. Jake Matijevic proposes Opportunity at Endurance. "It was the first time we got to a really big crater," he says. "And it was both a scientific and an engineering accomplishment."

Ashitey has plenty of suggestions, too, and he disparages one of my choices. "Personally, I think getting to the top of Husband Hill was kind of an anti-climax," he says. "A lot of the drives we did to get there were more interesting."

"Fair enough," I counter. "But to me, getting to the top of Husband Hill wasn't the point; it's that it represents the stuff we had to do to get there." He looks half-convinced, so I press on. "It's like running a marathon. Crossing the finish line is great, but that doesn't happen without all the stuff that led up to it -- all the training, the 26 miles you had to run to get there ...." That does it. He's on board.

Julie Townsend plumps for the sol-18 anomaly. I wasn't going to include that one, mostly because I'm tired of it, but she makes a good case. "It had the whole team working together to solve a problem -- and actually, we had two rovers in crisis, with Opportunity on her way to landing right when that happened." Hmmm ... it's a good point. That one goes on the maybe list.

Then that leads us into the top five scariest moments of the mission. The sol-18 anomaly is one, of course; then there's catching a potato in Spirit's wheel, Purgatory, losing Spirit's right-front wheel with winter coming, ....

For me, one of the scariest moments of the mission is something Jake says during that discussion. I've heard it before, but not from him. "We're going to have to think about another hard decision," he says. "When to give up on Spirit."

Ashitey's response captures my feelings perfectly. "Never!" he exclaims. "We'll drive her on one wheel!"

But Jake points out that, well, budgets are being cut, and Spirit's limited mobility makes simply turning her off a possible choice.

Later in the day, John Callas (MER's project manager) stops by to see what's up, and Ashitey mentions that possibility to him.

"We're not going to sacrifice a vehicle," John says flatly. "That's not gonna happen."

And that's the best news I've had all day.

[Next post: sol 1094 (Opportunity sol 1074), January 30.]

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