Friday, January 13, 2012

100 Sols on Cape York — An Absurdly Brief (Read: Long) Summary (Part 7/8)

Part 7: Tryptophan Tilts at Turkey Haven

2772 to Present
"tl;dr" Description
We left Homestake for a haven or two.
Highlights from Matt's Notebook
Sol 2778-2779:
> The DSN is helping look for Phobos-Grunt. Might steal our uplink. &^$*#&$#^%
Sols 2783-2784:
> RPs wanted to do something fancy. TUL said "no." RPs said, "Ok."
Sols 2792-2794:
> Secret Woids: boggle / inbred / accost. I want better ones.
Sol 2800:
> AGU Conference today. Broke the news on Homestake. Can finally finish that blog entry.

With Homestake finally out of the way, we had about a week before the Mars Science Lab launched and had great potential to steal our time with the DSN for a good while. (A thing that, incidentally, never occurred. We couldn't have asked for a better launch from MSL.) Without time on the DSN, we can't uplink; without uplink, the rover can't move; without movement, she'd be stuck in a region with poor northerly tilts. We needed more than 10 degrees of northerly tilt to be safe and still perform science observations over the winter; 15 would be better.

We sequenced a nice set of drives (with a dogleg around the icky — although did that icky ever turn out to be icky?) to get ourselves to a standoff/scout position where we could image two spots where we knew there were good northerly tilts according to orbital imagery and subsequent digital elevation maps. We needed the ground imagery from this standoff position to resolve the orbital measurements and provide some much-needed precision.

(Sol 2777)

We found Turkey Haven to our south, with tilts a little above 10 degrees in the northern direction and bits of outcrop, to boot. Here's an image looking south on the last leg of the drive indicated in the image above:

From both Turkey Haven and the previous standoff position, we could see another bit of northerly tilts to the north: Winter Haven. We had two places to sit, each of which had good tilts and perhaps some good science targets. We also knew that these were the best two sites for the tilts because the ground-based imagery validated the orbital imagery and gave us confidence that the sites the orbital data showed were indeed the sites we wanted. No need to turn 'round the northern corner of Cape York to see if there was anything else that the orbital images missed. To get an idea of the tilts, here's a great virtual overlay of Oppy from Stu:

With the image-mapping of our winter sites complete before we felt like they had started, we had some time to ourselves: we selected a smooth part of the outcrop under our feet at Turkey Haven to poke with the IDD. We called it Transvaal — and here's an approach+Hazcam shot of them:

(Sol 2785)

"Hey, whaddya know, the power went up a few percent with that tilt," we told ourselves when we bumped up onto Turkey Haven. Hey, you know, that's how reality works.

We poked and Transvaal and the surrounding outcrop for roughly a week. The results? Nothing juicy. Same rock, different sol. Gave us no pieces for the Martian water puzzle. With more targets at the other Winter Haven site, a few meters to our north, and with better northerly tilts there compared to Turkey Haven, there was no reason to stay and give Transvaal what it had coming. Time to move on to Winter Haven. 

Somewhere along this whole trip, time... disappeared. Just went away. Magically, we were at another 100-sol boundary. In the sequencing room at JPL, we post a sign at the door that tells everyone for which sol(s) we're building commands today. I may or may not have stolen one of them:

Not stolen.

I dibbs'd it (a dibbs is valid even if nobody hears you!) and took it. Felt like it was cool to have one of these. Felt like I'd be keeping it around, even if 2800 is just… a number. I wonder who'll get sol 3000? (5000? 10000?)


This is, really, the end of the first 100 sols at Cape York at the edge of Endeavour Crater. As of the time of writing, we've tacked on another 50 like it ain't no thang. The final part of the promised 8-part series will be a summary of what has happened since then — and where we plan on going once the winter is over.

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