Perhaps the most amazing event last week was that we were able to help the Cornell/JPL team plan a rover drive. The Victoria Crater image was coming in, though with data transmission gaps that meant manual processing was needed. At the same time, the load on our partially-upgraded internal network and servers was approaching a crisis-level condition. The image—if we got it—was expected to be released less than 18 hours later, at a joint Rover/HiRISE press briefing, which didn’t allow much time for analysis and color processing.
Finally, it was at this moment that Steve Squyres (Principal Investigator, Mars Exploration Rovers) called our Chris Okubo and asked for whatever we had in helping plan a rover drive “right now.” Chris O. is normally the most laid back person on the team, which kind of masks the fact that he is a very sharp, hard-working geologist, and somehow also found the time to plan more HiRISE observations than anyone else, by a substantial margin. Chris was at this moment as close to agitated as I’ve ever seen him.
But with some quick work by the Downlink Operations crew (Tahirih in particular), the rover drivers were able to get what they needed, and transmit instructions that would place Opportunity closer to the edge of Victoria Crater.
It seemed to be the dramatic climax to an incredible week.
The color image of Victoria Crater, our first color image from science orbit, is stunning, check it out if you haven’t already!
Shown below is HiRISE’s eagle-eyed view of Opportunity from 168 miles above.