Sunday, June 18, 2006

Rovers don't take vacations

As you can probably tell from the sporadic nature of this blog, I had a pretty busy travel schedule over the spring, not all of it related to Mars. I had long ago blocked out last week for "vacation" - not planning to go anywhere, just to take some mental time off. Well, instead I spent three of the days working for the rovers, two by schedule and one by volunteer. It's completely addictive. Opportunity has extricated herself from the Jammerbugt dune and we drove and took pictures of tracks last week. Spirit is still sitting in place taking the 360 degree Pancam mosaic.

But speaking of Pancam, last week I found myself in upstate NY for some family things and took a slight detour up to Ithaca for a couple of hours. I spent part of Opportunity's planning day with the Pancam crew at Cornell, which was fantastic (in that inner geeky way). I met several of the payload uplink people, with whom I've interacted on the telecon line many times, and got to see where the polycon shows them hard at work. I also was able to ask lots of questions about compression algorithms and other super geeky things I wonder about during the planning process. I don't think I'll be an expert remote senser anytime soon but the more I am able to actively interact, the more things soak in eventually.

Finally, my idol Steve Squyres was on the Colbert Report on Comedy Central last week; you can see the video clip there or download the entire 06/07/07 episode from iTunes. The more Steve does on this mission the more in awe of him I am and the more nervous I get around him! But Stephen Colbert does a great interview - he had a similar idea as mine - to drive the two rovers toward each other. OK, my idea was to have Robot Wars (verrrrrry sloooooowly) and his was to mate them and create a race of robot overlords, whatever. Each rover only has to travel 5336 km to meet in the middle; Spirit has driven 6.9 km already and Opportunity 8.1 km. At an average speed of 3.8 km/year, it'll only take another 1400 years or so. Stay tuned!

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