Red Rover, Red Rover

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Where the Heart Is

January 31, 2011

“Since July 26th, we've been sending X-band beep commands, figuring that even with Spirit in her Solar Groovy state, she'd respond with an X-band beep of her own.”

“Four months into non-communication, and you only started doing a sweep and beep?” Manning asked.

“There was only so much we could do, and while we didn't technically foresee the power down, we didn't rule it out. We knew it could be a possibility that Spirit went into hibernation for a while due to the energy levels. So yes, we let it go on without communications for a brief interval.” Estabrook answered.

“Brief interval...”

“And then we implemented the sweep and beep, but we all know there's only so much that can do given the time allotted and all.”

“Speaking of time...Ewell, is it that these faults only started showing a handful of months before hibernation?”

They looked at each other, expecting the question, though still not really having much to answer with.

“The systems all looked just fine all this time...” Townsend began.

“For the exception of the wheel of course yes? I mean, that failed how long into the mission?”

“That, was an unforeseen lubrication issue. As we've seen, having Opportunity equalize her driving load across all wheels, has prevented any such problem.” Ewell answered, then looked at Townsend.

“Yes, lets try to remember that we can test for all sorts of things here at home, but that will never be a total equivalent measure of situations and conditions out there. The wheel seizing on Spirit happened, and we never had that problem here, but we solved the issue and prevented it happening again in Opportunity. The instrumentation and all reports from Spirit indicated that things were going just fine. There was only some sign of systems decline slowly over the course of the last year before her going into sleep. It wasn't...completely sudden, regardless of it being unexpected. We're doing what we can at this point.”

“What else is there to do then? Spirit has been out of communication with us for close to a damn year now!”

“We've expanded the time window for the sweep and beep, but expectations for maximum efficiency are for next month, when the period of maximum solar insolation occurs.”

“There's another problem at the moment.” Estabrook said.

“Which is?” Manning asked.

“The solar conjunction communication moratorium has now begun and will extend until approximately

the 12th.”

“So the Sun is in our way for a couple weeks. Great.”

“We don't expect it will be for any longer than that, and...not to be possibly...negative, but considering that none of our sweep and beeps have held any success thus far...we don't necessarily figure...that those ten days of blocked communications will really...mean much.”

“Oh, that's the spirit Estabrook. Nothing has worked so far, so why give a shit if it doesn't then?”

“I didn't say that!”

The men argued on for what seemed like hours before finally coming to the conclusion to just stay the course. The meeting was letting out when Estabrook was stopped by Manning.

“I'm sorry about what I said in there.”

“Spirit is a part of all of us Manning. To even suggest...”
“I know. I just...want to get her back now. We've been really pushing it with the busted wheel and all to begin with.”

“Yeah, well, for the mission and all...”

“Sure. Sure.”

They stood silently for a moment.

“Sometimes...I think that even here, there's only a handful of us who really feel like Spirit and Opportunity are more than just tools. That...they're family.” Manning said with a little smile.

“I think that's probably true. Lets just do what we can for Spirit. Pray, even. And make sure to keep Opportunity safer than we did with her twin.”

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