Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 2, 03/31/11 -- Shorts and opens

It was a gorgeous day in Palestine today -- I wore shorts for the first time in months, and it was definitely the right decision.

Our major task for the next week or so is to get the cryostat ready for cooling down. In order to do this, we needed to get some of the hardware out of the cryostat where it was shipped in only a partially-assembled state. This led to our first encounter with CSBF's new crane use policy: For every lift, we need to have multiple people working the crane/controlling the load PLUS a safety officer to supervise. On top of that, our official crane certification hasn't yet come through, so for every lift we need to ask the CSBF personnel to operate the crane. At the moment this is not a big deal, since we use the crane fairly infrequently when putting together the cryostat. However once the gondola gets here, the crane will be needed at the very least every day, if not multiple times a day...

At any rate, we got the transport cover (too heavy for flight) off of the cryostat and I began taking off radiation shields in order to remove some wiring that needs fixing and so that we could take out the aforementioned hardware.

Once we got the hardware out, Kyle set to putting the instrument back together, starting with some thermal isolation legs and then our sub-Kelvin adsorption refrigerators. Meanwhile, Jeff and I were working on cryogenic wiring -- him replacing old wiring that was spec'ed for a different hardware setup than we now have inside the cryostat, and me fixing wiring that was inadvertently damaged before the previous cryostat run in Minnesota, causing open circuits. We all made good progress, and our timeline for closing up the cryostat is looking reasonable.

On a sad note, hardware for the CREAM experiment arrived in the west high bay. That in and of itself is not sad. What's sad is that it's sitting on the badminton court. I guess we'll have to set up the ping-pong table in our high bay (away from all the fragile stuff, of course).

On a blog-related note, internet access from our lodgings is pretty sporadic, meaning that updates may come the morning after (when I get reliable internets at CSBF) rather than the night of.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 1, 03/30/11 -- All Along the Water Tower

Our goal for today was modest: unpack our equipment and set up the high bay so we could work effectively. Unfortunately for us, we were initially thwarted by some logistical issues. We had initially chosen to use the east high bay in the Palestine dual high bay building mainly for one reason: We can look out the door and see the water tower located at the CSBF site. We had been planning to mount a source on the water tower shining down toward the high bay and use it for mapping the spatial response of the telescope.

Until I got an email from one of the CSBF guys saying, effectively, "Yeah, putting stuff on the water tower is going to be difficult." It turns out that someone already has a source on the water tower: Verizon Wireless. Their 500-some-watt transmitter on top of the tower would need to be shut off in order to have someone go up there. Plus, CSBF hasn't had anyone up in the tower since the new safety regulations were initiated. Oh, and the wasps. Yeah, wasps.

What this meant for us is that we were dead in the water. If we couldn't put stuff on the water tower, we'd have to figure out some way to mount the source atop a different building that is more visible from a different high bay. Meaning that if we just started unpacking and setting up, there was a possibility we'd have to move everything over to the other bay and do it all again.

So...we waited. Explored a little bit. Played badminton. Eventually I was able to talk with the site manager, and he told me they would figure out a way to get our source on the water tower. Hallelujah! Now, at 3PM we could finally start unpacking!

We made pretty quick work of it, actually. By the time we left the high bay, we had everything we needed in the next few weeks unpacked, the computers partially set up, the work spaces defined, the sub-Kelvin fridge electronics checked, and the cryostat de-crated and set on its cart. Tomorrow we'll begin doing real "science" work in earnest, with Jeff and I working on wiring fixes/improvements and Kyle to start putting the instrument back together.
Pictures from today:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 0, 03/29/11 -- Arrival in Palestine

Welcome to, officially, the first post for the new edition of EBEX in Flight!

The first part of the EBEX team (myself, Jeff, and Kyle) has arrived in Palestine, Texas safely. After a painless and relatively short flight to Dallas, we ate a late lunch at Mia's Tex Mex (brisket tacos omg nom), and set out for the ~2 hour drive to Palestine. We arrived at our lodgings for our term in Palestine at the Redlands Historic Inn. While it's not exactly the lap of luxury, we have a kitchen and WiFi (sort of), so we'll manage. And we have a pet (sort of): a plaster dog I dubbed Roger. Here you can see Roger stylishly modeling Kyle's jacket:
After getting our belongings up to our suite, we decided to go to the grocery store for some supplies. We then proceeded to watch the Twins lose to the Braves in the 10th inning in their final spring training game. Tomorrow our plan is to set up our work area in the CSBF high bay. Most of our equipment arrived in Palestine on Monday, with the balance due tomorrow morning.

The photo of Roger is the only photo for the day, so I'm not going to bother putting up a link to the 'album' (such as it is).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Prologue: Palestine, TX

Wow, it's been a while. Of course, that's by design -- this blog was intended only for chronicling the EBEX flight campaign(s), and we haven't had one since our flight in 2009.

That is about to change.

We are getting ready for our first long-duration flight from Antarctica. Part of this process is putting the instrument together with the gondola and making sure it all still works -- what we call "integration". We will be integrating the experiment in Palestine, Texas, home of NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.

This edition of EBEX in Flight will be, structurally, very similar to the last one: A (hopefully) daily recap of the day's activities along with pictures.

The first real post will be Tuesday or Wednesday (March 29 or 30). Please follow along (add to your RSS feed, if you like) and leave comments!