Monday, March 5, 2012

Over the hump!

It's been over a month since my last post. Upwards of a dozen people have asked me, "When are you posting again?"

Well, right now.

But the point of their question was, really, "Where have you been?" A few things combined chaotically into a fully-functioning ecosystem of busy:

1) MSL is a hard bird to fly. Long days, long nights, lots of time away from MER.

2) Oppy's been quiet. Filling out the Greeley Pan (part 45 to be taken tonight) has been the biggest consumer of bits, maybe second only to the MI stacks of Amboy. The MI mosaic is something like 17Lx2Wx5D and we've got maybe one-third of it captured. The Mossbauer has been accumulating hours of integration time, trying to sharpen up the resolution of the composition curves the scientists derive from its data. We're somewhere north of 50 hours by now, with 100 being the target. We're playing the power game sol-to-sol balancing the activities. Nothing new has really happened for about… 2 months?

3) I've been working on a Radio Science post. Being roughly halfway through the Radio Science season (ahem, winter), we've collected a huge amount of data to get those error bars down. This post is still in the works and is a bit difficult to put to together; it's driven by some cool geometric simulations that are easy to understand but hard to create. A friend works for the NAIF[link=] folks across the street from my office building at JPL and she's been debugging the issues with me. On a scale of 1 to way-cool-awesome, it's about a 12. Stand by for that bad boy.

4) Got a new sound system for my vinyl records. Wasted a lot of time listening to it — sounds gorgeous. Much like the Mossbauer, I'm accumulating hours on it: it's tube-driven and the tubes take, incidentally, about 50 hours to be broken in. I find this all sorts of meaningful. It's like my own Mossbauer. In my room. Making loud noises.

So there you have it.

The big piece of news this week was that there was a small cleaning event[link=]. It bought us a handful of watt-hours that made all the difference. This comes at a time when we're approaching minimum solar insolation (power from the sun) — to hit sometime this week — after which it's pretty much only going to get better. We're over the hump! It's the Wednesday of the winter season.

In other major news, there was a Steve Squyres spotting this week. That'll get its own post because the experience served as a reconstitution of the MER spirit (pun not intended) for the whole project .

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