Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 81, 6/12/09 -- Recovery tales

First, what everyone is dying to know: No, we don't have the payload back yet. The soil near where EBEX landed is very loose and sandy, and the recovery truck actually got stuck, digging its rear tire into a nice hole about half the diameter of the tire and they had to call a tow truck to help pull it out. Recovery of the gondola is waiting on getting some heavy equipment (something with tracks, like a bulldozer or the like) to drag the recovery truck in so they can put the gondola on the trailer.

A more thorough recap of yesterday:
We left Winslow, AZ at about 3:30AM and started driving west on I-40. By about 8AM, we had made it to the turnoff for Lake Havasu City and we stopped for gas and to await further instruction on the payload location. The NASA pilot and some other crew had flown to Lake Havasu and then flew from there to search for the payload.

From the air, they were able to direct us to the gondola. When we got there, we saw that it was on its back, and short distance from the road. It landed in the middle of an empty parcel in the Stagecoach Trails "development" (if you can call it that) near Yucca, AZ. We spent a long time trying to figure out who owned the land, dealing with crappy cell phone reception, a wild goose chase, bla bla bla. Long story short, we were saved by a couple we ran into on the road, Cecil and Deanna Powell, who became interested in our predicament and actually went back to their house, got on the Internet, and looked up the owners while we were out driving around trying to get information. Cecil and Deanna -- thank you so much!
Jeff and I started by walking the ~1000 feet out to the gondola. The first indications were that it was in one piece and the important bits undamaged. We spent a long time looking around and inspecting things before starting any disassembly. Britt joined us a little later and then process went pretty smoothly for us. We started by removing important items like the disks, star camera, and other various pieces of electronics, which took the better part of the afternoon. I checked the cryogen tanks to make sure they were free of ice plugs. Because of the aforementioned truck troubles, we had to carry out all the pieces to the road to load them in the truck and car.

Once it got dark, we headed back to Lake Havasu City and got some sleep -- 7 hours, which was more sleep than I had gotten in the past two days combined.

In the morning today, we talked with the CSBF crew about what we thought needed to be done in order to secure the payload on the truck once they got it there. We split up, and we headed back out to the payload to do some last checks. When we arrived at the payload, we found that one of the neighbors had come out to the payload and put a sticker on our experiment! This amused us greatly. On the way back out, we ran into Cecil and Deanna again, and they gave us the name of a guy with heavy equipment who worked on the weekend and might be able to help CSBF get the payload out. We relayed the info to CSBF and then started the drive back to Fort Sumner.

First, we stopped by the place of the neighbor with the sticker, and we chatted for about a half hour about the project -- he said he had seen the balloon the night while it was at float -- and it ended up landing about 300 feet north of his property. On the way to Fort Sumner, we stopped at the In-N-Out Burger in Kingman, AZ. Then we basically drove the rest of the way non-stop and arrived in Fort Sumner at about midnight.

No pictures from recovery yet, but launch pictures are up at:

1 comment:

  1. Asad: This is Deanna Powell. Cecil and I are the desert people who tagged along with you at Stagecoach Trails. Thanks for all the time we spent with you, Jeff and Britt. I am so encouraged about the future of our country when I meet up with young people that will be our future. Britt sent us two cool T-sirts with the logo EBEX. Any results from the data?


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