Spirit Sol 1069

As of this sol, we're starting our fourth Earth year on Mars. For Spirit, at least; Opportunity's anniversary doesn't happen for another few weeks.

But we're celebrating it in a big way, with an aggressive drive to the Troll outcrop. Yestersol's IDD autoplace checkout got killed because it was taking too much time, but it looks like it was running OK. It just took it a little longer than expected to find targets, and when it got killed, the sequence was in the final cleanup phase anyway. So we're good to go.

But go where? The scientists would like us to go to the part of Troll nicknamed "Riquelme," but there's a slight problem with that. When you look carefully at our current position, it appears that Riquelme isn't just under the left solar panel, it's under the left middle wheel. That means we drove over it with at least that wheel, probably also with the left front wheel, and we'll drive over it even more getting away. When we do that, we contaminate the target with tracked-in dirt and also with small amounts of metal from the wheel itself, and in a case like this, that makes the target less attractive to the scientists.

So we're off to another part of the Troll outcrop, a section called Montalva. This is a low slab of exposed rock visible off to our left. As with any Spirit drive these days, this is going to be a challenge. We've got to back up while turning 100 degrees counterclockwise, then bump forward until Montalva is close enough to reach it with the arm.

Not only does this call for some fairly precise driving, it also means trying to climb a slope of maybe 12 to 14 degrees -- forward, yet, pushing one wheel. Not only that, but time is tight; if just one or two steps don't do everything they should, we'll probably fall short. It's about at the limit of what Spirit can do now, maybe over that limit, and we're careful to say so to the science team.

But I hope she makes it. That'll be a nice, quiet, but glorious way to start our fourth year here.

As another milestone, thisol we uplink r1000 -- the 1000th drive sequence sent to the vehicle. That's not the same as 1000 drives, because it's common for a single drive to use multiple sequences. But it's a cool moment to see those numbers wrap.

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