Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day 67, December 30, 2012 -- Hiatus

Now that EBEX is up in the air, I'm going to take the opportunity to take a little break from blogging for a while. Come back in about 10 days for stories of termination and recovery!

No pictures today.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Day 66, December 29, 2012 -- LAUNCHED!

With the possibility of an early launch today, the roll-out crew came back to the high bay at 10PM last night to prepare EBEX for flight. This included refilling cryogens after an earlier fridge cycle (which required me to squeeze into a pretty tight spot on the experiment to avoid having to uncover and re-cover an access panel) and a whole slew of pointing-related checks. We got out on the deck and had our baffles and solar panels deployed, and were ready to be picked up by the boss ahead of schedule! The CSBF crew picked up the payload and drove away from the building to do their UTP tests, and once they were done we were ready to drive out to the launch pad a full hour and forty minutes ahead of schedule.

Once we got out to the pad though...we waited. And waited. And waited some more. The launch opportunity today was supposed to be a pretty small transient high pressure system, so we weren't sure ahead of time when the winds would settle down. We had predictions one way, then things changed. We initially oriented the gondola expecting winds coming from one direction, but after reviewing the new weather data, we ended up oriented about 90 degrees away from that. And then we waited some more.

Finally, after sitting on the launch pad for about 9 hours waiting to see what the weather would do, we got a break and everything started coming together. CSBF waits to unroll the balloons from their crates until they have a reasonable certainty of launching (because they can't be rolled back in and cost a few hundred thousand dollars apiece), so they started laying out the balloon and doing all of their pre-launch checks. We only had a few things left to do before launch, so we got them out of the way as soon as we could, and by about 20 minutes before launch we were hands-off -- EBEX was in the capable hands of the CSBF balloon launch crew.

And it was a beauty.

The launch could not have gone better. Unlike some launches, during which the flight train gets a fair bit of tension from the balloon getting ahead of the launch vehicle before the crew chief releases the payload, this time it was timed so perfectly that EBEX seemingly just gracefully slid off the pin and floated upward. It was by far the best launch I've ever seen (three in New Mexico, including EBEX's first launch, and two here).

Currently, after about 4h45m after launch, EBEX is at about 110,000 feet and things seem to be going pretty well!

The launch video can be seen here (make sure to select the 1080P full HD resolution):

You can track EBEX as it flies around Antarctica here:

And, of course, the usual (quite full!) album of pictures:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Day 65, December 28, 2012 -- Launch opportunity tomorrow

We were all set this morning to go out and do some tests outside the high bay today -- the winds were extremely calm at ground level (though they were 20+ knots 800 feet up), making it an ideal time to take the experiment outside to get some fresh air. We got word, though, in the early morning that the weather had potential for a launch opportunity tomorrow morning. By the time of the official weather briefing at 11AM, that had turned into a definite "show" for launch (a "show" meaning we'd get ready to launch assuming the weather held up). So we finished the few things we needed to do in the high bay and the early crew left in the early afternoon to try and get a little rest before heading back to LDB at about 10PM.

I managed to get only a few hours of sleep, and am now waiting to get ready and head out to the high bay. Fingers crossed!

No pictures today.

Day 64, December 27, 2012 -- Spontaneous day off!

We had planned today to take EBEX out of the building and do some final shakedown tests, but a prediction of strong winds canceled that plan. So, with little to do in the high bay, most of the team took a spontaneous day off.

I took the opportunity to get a quick workout in at the so-called 'gerbil gym' before meeting up with Jeff and Kevin at the "day bar" -- the bar that's open from 7AM-11AM for night shift workers. There, we had a beverage and played a round of darts (which I handily won, surprisingly) before going to lunch. In the afternoon, I sat in my room and read (a book from Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan science-fiction saga, if you must know) until 4PM when I joined a few of the other EBEXers for some pool in one of the dorm lounges. It was there that many of us saw the first penguin of our trip to Antarctica, a small Adelie that was waddling down the road behind the dorms.

First, penguins are ridiculously cute -- especially when they waddle. Second, I didn't have my camera with me; Franky was kind enough to share a few that he took. The penguin made it down the road and eventually scrambled down some rocks and onto the ice.

Pictures (all penguin!):

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Day 63, December 26, 2012 -- BLAST off!

BLAST successfully launched this morning around 8AM local time. The winds ended up being quite calm (probably calm enough for EBEX to launch, honestly), and the launch vehicle had to do minimal driving around to stay under the balloon before releasing BLAST. After about 5 hours they were at 130,000 feet and things seem to be working well for them.

I came in early to watch (and record) the BLAST launch, and the rest of the EBEX team showed up a little after 8 (having just missed the launch). EBEX's day was dedicated to more testing -- first a bit of noise testing and then full system tests with scanning in the high bay.

 Besides the usual pictures, I also have a fun little animated GIF from near the beginning of balloon inflation:

as well as the BLAST launch video I took and then immediately posted to YouTube (with the BLAST team's blessing, of course!):

And, of course, the usual pictures:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Day 62, December 25, 2012 -- Christmas Day

Another uneventful day in the EBEX world. A few people went in early to get some work done, but I didn't go in until about 11AM (and thus was able to partake in the post-Christmas-dinner brunch). When we went in, we heard that there is a potential launch opportunity tomorrow morning for BLAST (presumably the winds will be a bit much for EBEX).

Once in the high bay, I busied myself with doing a little bit of cleanup -- putting away random hardware that has been sitting around since it was last used, like our turbo pump, our millimeter-wave source, and our coordinate-measuring-machine arm. Mostly I just sat around and read a book. But for the first time in probably nearly 2 weeks, we were treated to a brilliantly sunny afternoon, and I got some nice shots of Mt. Erebus and some pretty dramatic-looking clouds above it.

I'm still debating whether or not to try and go in early for the BLAST launch attempt or just to sleep more and go in at our regular time and potentially miss the launch (the window starts at 7AM but I wouldn't get to LDB until about 8). Decisions, decisions.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Day 61, December 24, 2012 -- More testing

Today was dedicated to the (successful) completion of testing the stability of our fixed flight computer watchdog system. We did long-ish-term stability tests in the morning and a bunch of shorter tests in the afternoon to look at flight computer memory usage when writing various amounts of data to disk. In the end, we're confident we have a system we can fly, and if any problems arise we have the tools to deal with them in flight.

I mostly did a whole lot of nothing. When we returned to McMurdo we were treated to the base's Christmas dinner -- a movable feast of roast meats (beef wellington and prime rib), seared duck breast, and baked lobster tails along with various sides as well as an impressive array of house-made desserts (pecan pie, buche de noel, fudge, etc) as well as the ubiquitous Frosty Boy softserve, tinted a season-appropriate green.

I didn't get any pictures of the food, though, since I don't usually take my camera to meals and I forgot to do so even on this special occasion. You'll have to make do with pictures of people in the high bay.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 60, December 23, 2012 -- Another day off?!

What's this? Two days off in a row? Once again my services were not needed in the high bay, so I took the opportunity to relax a bit and sleep a bit more to try and help catch up. For the first time in a long while, I can say that I might actually be fully-rested.

After lunch, I took a mini-tour of the food freezer in McMurdo, where they have stacks and stacks of crates with various frozen foods from potatoes and veggies to proteins (including whole pigs). It was pretty neat, and the photos from the freezer comprise most of today's pictures. It also was pretty snowy the whole day here; you can compare the one picture of the ice pier and Hut Point ridge today to yesterday's picture and see that everything's got a nice coating of powder.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Day 59, December 22, 2012 -- Day off

After the previous day's launch attempt, I and a fair number of other EBEXers took today off in order to catch up on my sleep -- I went to bed at around 7PM last night and woke up around 7AM this morning, and I think I could still sleep some more! There was no reason for me to go in to the high bay today, so I stayed in McMurdo, exercised, wandered around and took a bunch of photos of stuff around McMurdo, and watched the McMurdo explosives crew blow up some ice (yes, I'm serious, and I have pictures).

Over in the high bay they spent more time gathering data on our flight computer reboot situation and have implemented a fix that seems to have done the trick. More testing will be done tomorrow as the weather will not be suitable for a launch.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Day 58, December 21, 2012 -- No launch

I'll get it out of the way first: we unfortunately didn't launch today.

Things started off well at about 11:30PM last night -- we went through our pre-rollout tasks (refilling cryogens, closing access panels, checking commands, etc) and got out onto the deck around 1:30AM without incident, and while out on the deck the mechanical work (deploying baffles and solar panels) proceeded apace. We did a quick scan test as well, and then let CSBF take over to attach to the launch vehicle and add their hardware. While out on the deck, we noticed that our flight computers seemed to be rebooting an awful lot, but we chalked it up to people working around the gondola (we have had problems with static discharge during the whole campaign) so we weren't too concerned. CSBF attached all their hardware and then went away from the building to do various checks around 4:30AM.

Out there they discovered that one of their electronics packages had an issue so they replaced it with a spare, leading to a small delay. We also had a bit of wind variability -- winds that originally looked like they were coming from the west started turning around to head out of the east, meaning the layout direction couldn't be fixed until that worked itself out. In the end, the winds lined up such that the launch path would take the balloon directly over the LDB facility buildings, which means that all non-launch-essential personnel would have to stay indoors -- we wouldn't even be able to watch the launch!

It ended up being a non-issue, though, since our flight computer continued to misbehave while hanging out on the pad. We thought we found the problem and went out to do a quick change of the control software, but that ended up only solving most of the problems. After a few hours on the pad, the winds picked up and we hadn't yet figured out the solution to the flight computer issue, so we headed back in. Our next launch opportunity doesn't seem to be for a few days yet, so there's plenty of time to debug.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day 57, December 20, 2012 -- Pre-launch

Weather briefing today showed a launch window tomorrow (Friday) morning around 8AM -- the surface and low-level winds look awesome for getting EBEX off the ground. As such, today we did some pre-launch stuff and a fair bit of the crew headed home early to try and get some sleep before having to show up at LDB around 11PM to prepare for rolling out. The rest of the team stayed a bit later and will be arriving at LDB at 6AM to handle launch/ascent/float operations.

No pictures today.

Day 56, December 19, 2012 -- Waiting game

As I mentioned yesterday, we weren't expected to have a launch opportunity until either Thursday night or Friday morning, so we decided to use all of today for first making sure our pivot motor issues were put to bed, and then for full system flight simulations in the afternoon/evening.

A few of us left in the afternoon, again, as there is little-to-nothing for us to do during these simulations. Once back in McMurdo, I took the opportunity to call my wife and my parents, and then I practiced my lecture that I gave in the evening. I think it went well, though the crowd was pretty...sparse.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 55, December 18, 2012 -- Waiting to launch

Yesterday we finished debugging the two outstanding hardware issues we had (some pivot motor control weirdness, and some detector readout crate odd behavior). Today we are confident that we can launch at the next available opportunity, which appears now to be Friday morning.

Because there was so little for me to do in the high bay yesterday, I (and a few others) left in the early afternoon and caught a shuttle back to McMurdo. I took a little walk down to Hut Point because some people had seen penguins there the day prior, but I didn't see any (sadly!). I did see, however, a big machine picking up large chunks of sea ice from around the ice pier and loading them into dump trucks for transport to who knows where. I spent most of the rest of the night working on slides for my lecture that I'll be giving tomorrow night.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 54, December 17, 2012 -- Pre-show

Tomorrow is a "show" day for launch, so we spent today doing some really last-minute stuff. After filling helium in the morning, we took the gondola out on the deck to vertically align our pivot motor with gravity to make it as easy as possible for the gondola to move in azimuth. We had some issues that we believe are related to the low temperature (and lack of solar warming with today's overcast weather -- they resolved themselves once the sun came out) so we are pressing ahead.

We head back out to LDB at 11PM for pre-flight.

No pictures today. But there will be plenty tomorrow!

Day 53, December 16, 2012 -- Mechanical day

Today we worked on tying up various 'mechanical' and gondola loose ends on the experiment. I spent a fair bit of time atop the cryostat with increasingly less and less room to work for finishing the last bits necessary for the double window mechanism, sealing off the inner frame area around the window for the last time, and filling nitrogen.

Michele and Seth spent most of the day debugging a mysterious battery issue that cropped up late yesterday. The end result is that everything is fine, but it gave us quite a scare when the entire attitude control and flight computer side of the gondola just shut down suddenly as we were rolling in from our compatibility test. Jeff finished with all of the silver teflon work and repainted a star camera baffle, Andrei checked our liquid cooling system coolant, Ben worked on closing up the BRO crates and the access panels for the BROs, etc, etc. Lots of little and not-so-little tasks getting checked off our pre-flight-readiness checklist.

No pictures today.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 52, December 15, 2012 -- Compatibility Day

Today was our compatibility test with CSBF, where we hang from the launch vehicle and we and CSBF check out all of our systems and make sure there's nothing funny going on. We started with a nice weather forecast and rolled out to the deck and started getting the gondola set up for pickup. We then got word that the winds were scheduled to pick up somewhat between 11AM and 1PM, so we decided to go back in and wait out the wind rather than risk a repeat of the damage from a few days back. When inside, we were then weighed by CSBF as part of our pre-flight checkout.

After lunch, the winds had calmed down enough that we decided to go out again. We exited the high bay, unfolded the baffles and solar arrays, and set the elevation lock pin in place. At that point, we gave the gondola over to the CSBF crew who installed the ballast hopper, their solar arrays to power their electronics, and various other bits. Once that was done, they drove out away from the high bay where they connected the payload to their UTP -- the Universal Terminate Package, which is what is used to separate the balloon from the parachute+gondola at the end of the flight, and similarly the parachute from the balloon on landing. During that time, we tested all of our different communications channels -- our line-of-sight 1 GHz link, our TDRSS satellite link, and our Iridium satellite link.

By around 7PM, the winds had started to pick up again as the sun came out, so we decided to call it quits and brought the gondola back to the high bay. We had everything folded back up and back in the high bay by 9.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 51, December 14, 2012 -- Compatibility looms

Today's big task on the gondola was getting our solar arrays mounted. I had to stay up late last night to check up on our fridge cycle after we had some CANBus problems late yesterday, so I didn't get to the high bay until around 11AM, at which point the first of our two large arrays was already installed. The second was installed by mid-afternoon.

During the day, part of the team did a flight simulation, going over the various aspects of our pre-flight, launch, ascent, and at-float strategies. During part of this, we found an issue with the HWP and we eventually realized that we can't get it spinning at the absolute lowest elevation angle the gondola can point to. This isn't a problem, since we never actually point that low during flight, and we can always just start higher and go down, but it and a coincident readout software issue definitely stressed Jeff out a bit in the afternoon.

I left the high bay around 6PM because I needed to make sure I ate dinner and did laundry so I would be well-rested for our planned compatibility test tomorrow while most of the rest of the team stayed to finish the flight simulation and do a few more mechanical things on the gondola to get ready.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 50, December 13, 2012 -- Reverse Van Gogh

EBEX once again has both ears. After CSBF's heroic fixes on the structure yesterday, we spent today re-mylarizing the thing and finally got it mounted by about 9PM.

We ended up not doing compatibility today for a number of reasons and are preparing to do it some time this weekend, weather permitting.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 49, December 12, 2012 -- Ear surgery

One thing I didn't mention in yesterday's post is that one of EBEX's large 'ear' baffles suffered some damage as a result of yesterday's wind that picked up and precipitated the end of our far sidelobe test. Today we assesed the damage with the help of some of the CSBF crew. They ended up taking over the task of fixing the ear for us (which is awesome) and we will be ready to start re-mylarizing it tomorrow!

In addition to the ear fixes, we focused on preparing the experiment for its compatibility test tomorrow, one of the last hurdles to overcome before we declare flight readiness.

Also, despite what Picasa told me about being out of space, Google has apparently consolidated its Picasa and Google Drive storage and now I have 5GB of shared storage between them -- plenty for the rest of this campaign and then some. So all of my pictures are now back on my original Picasa account.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 48, December 11, 2012 -- Far sidelobes

After yesterday's marathon 17-hour workday, I and a few others went in to the high bay in the afternoon. At that point, EBEX was already out on the dance floor and the team was hard at work trying to do our far sidelobe measurement. This was quite challenging (the hardest part being finding our mm-wave source in the first place). By the end of the day, the winds started picking up so we had to cut the test short without having finished.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 47, December 10, 2012 -- Completely baffled

We are making a big push right now to get ourselves flight ready. One of the tests we need to do before then is our "far sidelobe" test, which measures how much light couples to our telescope from directions besides the one we're looking. In order to do that properly, though, EBEX needs to be fully dressed, with all the baffling that we will have in flight. So today was dedicated completely to finishing up those baffles and completing other hardware items that are necessary for this test.

I spent the majority of the day up and around the top of the cryostat, installing our "champagne bucket" window baffle as well as the rear shielding around the secondary mirror and cryostat. Concurrently, others worked on finishing up the large 'ear' baffles that surround the front of the telescope. By the end of the day we had the ears on, but we still needed to work on closing up some of the access panels and taping open seams and whatnot. About half the team left around 8PM back to McMurdo, a few more left around 11PM, and Andrei, KyleH, and I stayed until after 1AM to finish the little bit remaining and start the fridge cycle so detectors would be ready in the morning.


Day 46, December 9, 2012 -- SuperTIGER away!

Sorry for the delay -- been crazy busy down here and haven't had time to post.

The big news today was that SuperTIGER has launched! They had a picture-perfect launch, with the launch vehicle barely having to move at all before releasing the payload. They were at nearly 130,000 feet within 6 hours and by all accounts things seem to be going well.

After the launch, it was back to the high bay for us. My main task for the day was to work on finishing up the inner frame baffling. Kyle and Seth did some General Housekeeping board/CANBus debugging, Britt and Shaul worked on some other electronics stuff, and I'm sure other people did various things but I didn't keep track of everything because I was busy.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Days 44 and 45, November 7-8, 2012 -- Snow school

Oh man am I beat. Yesterday and today, Jeff and I took part in the "Happy Camper" snow school course offered by the USAP Field Safety Training Program as part of our preparation to (eventually) go on payload recovery after the flight is terminated. After a morning class session about hazards and risk management, we then drove out to the ice shelf where we were showed how to set up a camp on the ice in case we ever got stuck out on the ice.

We learned how to set up two types of tents (really sturdy Scott tents and more lightweight mountaineering tents, both affixed with dead-man snow anchors), how to run the Whisperlite camp stoves packed in the survival kits, and how to cut blocks of snow out of the ice to use for various purposes, like building a wind-blocking wall or for a snow shelter. And then...they left! We were left out on the ice and the instructors wouldn't come back until the morning.

After they left, we divided up the remaining tasks -- finishing the snow wall, and starting some boiling water for hot beverages and food rehydration. A fair number of the 14 students on the course (including Jeff and myself) elected to spend the night in snow trenches, so we all got to work on digging our trenches and cutting snow blocks to use as a roof. Some people cheated and used sleds as their roof, though :). This was definitely the hardest part of the course for me, as I had to cut and carry massive (I'd estimate ~80 lbs each) snow blocks and assemble them without breaking them in the process.

I finished my trench around 9:30 and settled in for a not-particularly-restful night of sleep. Though my trench was plenty warm (I was sweating inside my sleeping bag), I didn't do a good job of making the floor flat, so it was pretty uneven, and even though I was exhausted I had a hard time falling asleep.

We got up around 6AM and started breaking down the campsite -- filling in our trenches and snow quarries, taking down the tents, and eventually knocking down our wind wall. We then went back to the instructional hut near the campsite for a little talk on radios (after which we set up an HF radio out on the snow and communicated with the South Pole Station) and survival bags. The nearly last task of the day and the course was to play out a couple scenarios that relied on us using the knowledge we gained during the previous day of the course.

After that, we packed up, cleaned up, piled into a Delta, and drove back to McMurdo for a short video on helicopter safety and we were done by about 3PM. Even after showering and changing into clean clothes, I am tired, sore, and hungry, and I anticipate a very good night's sleep tonight!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Day 43, December 6, 2012 -- Spending 5 hours freezing 35 feet above the ground

Today was...not my favorite day in Antarctica to date. Our main goal for today was to try and figure out the relationship between where our star cameras are pointed and where the actual EBEX telescope is pointed in order to make it easier to find our calibration source in the early parts of the flight. In principle, this is simple -- take a bright mm-wave source and shine it at the telescope, try and find the center of the beam, and then take a picture of the source with the star camera at that position. In reality, it's complicated by a variety of factors, such as the offset between the telescope and star camera because our source is in the near field, the difficulty of finding the right signal level so as not to saturate the detector(s), and pointing the gondola outside in somewhat gusty wind conditions. Add to this the fact that I had to spend about 5 hours on top of a 35-foot boom lift in 30-degree (F) weather and you can imagine that I was pretty grumpy by the end of the day. add insult to injury, we weren't actually able to make the measurement we wanted to make due to pointing difficulties. So we're going to try it again tomorrow morning in what are supposed to be calmer conditions.

Michele returned from snow survival school last night having had a real test, staying out overnight in the snowstorm with 40+mph wind gusts. He spent today helping Andrei with mylarizing the large 'ear' sun baffles. Jeff and I head to snow school tomorrow in what looks to be much nicer weather. This means that there will be no update tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day 42, December 5, 2012 -- Calibration and scanning

After yesterday's bad weather, we were also slightly delayed coming in to the high bay this morning because the road condition had deteriorated overnight due to the storm (snow, either falling or drifting). We ended up getting in about an hour late, which gave us an hour less time to set up for the polarization rotation calibration test we had planned to do this morning.

The setup, involving a styrofoam cooler with millimeter-wave absorber and liquid nitrogen plus a large chopper blade with room-temperature absorber, didn't take too long to set up. As is often the case, the major delay was due to weird computing issues, with timestamps from different systems that didn't agree. After restarting a few programs, the bug went away on its own, so we were able to take the data we needed and had the entire experiment off the gondola by about 2:30PM, at which point we gave the gondola over to Joy and Chappy for scan tests.

During the setup for our test, other people in the high bay got various things done. Matt replaced a suspicious-looking capacitor on one of our flight computer motherboards (and I got what I think may be the best photo of the campaign so far, check out the pictures), and KyleH and Andrei finished mylarizing the front part of the upper sun shield. Before giving the gondola over to Chappy and Joy, Seth removed one of the disk pressure vessels from the gondola in order to replace some of the disks that are acting funny, and Britt and I did a quick and dirty magnetometer input linearity check.

Two things I forgot to mention yesterday: Andrei finished installing all of our wiring on our solar arrays, so they are ready to mount and provide power in the sun. And Britt and Matt, with help from the manufacturer, determined that our 'dead' battery isn't actually dead and we can in fact use it after doing a hard reboot of the control processor.


Day 41, December 4, 2012 -- Scheduling

One of the major challenges in working on an experiment as complex as EBEX is that all of the people in charge of the major subsystems vie for time when they can have the experiment all to themselves. Naturally, this sometimes presents conflicts, and we have to think a lot about order of operations when prioritizing what work should happen when.

One of these situations occurred yesterday during my day off when a plan was made, but an important calibration test was neglected in the planning. So, of course, the plans have to change, and it takes an hour to sort everything out, but in the end we have a new plan that hopefully will work out for everyone.

Today, one of the first tasks was to cut access panels in the BTS for Franky so he could access the BRO crates more easily. After that was done (which took the better part of the morning), Franky finished in 10 minutes a task he tried for an hour to do yesterday unsuccessfully. In the afternoon, we gave the gondola over to Chappy and Joy for more scan tests. We also got hardware set up for the aforementioned calibration test we are now planning to do tomorrow morning.

Toward the end of the day, the weather took a turn for the worse and we were told we needed to leave the high bay early (4:30PM instead of 5:30) in order to avoid being stuck out at LDB all night. Michele, however, is in snow survival school, so he is getting the true Happy Camper experience.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Day 40, December 3, 2012 -- Day off!

The plan for today in the high bay was to do flight simulations, so I decided to take a much needed day off as I have no role in the simulations. I found out from Facebook that CSBF launched their pathfinder balloon, a small (0.14 million cubic feet) balloon with a small GPS and telemetry instrumentation package used to verify that the winds at float altitudes are indeed circulating around the continent.

As for me, I had a lovely day off -- my first in over three weeks. I slept in for a bit, woke up, puttered around a little, slept a little more in the morning, and then went to the gerbil gym for a quick workout. After that, lunch and then a hike on the Hut Point Ridge Trail. I got a few nice pictures of some Weddell seals that were hanging out on the ice near Hut Point and some nice vistas from the Ridge Trail itself.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 39, December 2, 2012 -- Outdoor action

Today we had a few items on the agenda. First, we had a successful overnight automated fridge cycle, giving us confidence that our heater commanding woes are finally behind us. Another task was to work on the baffling, and secure some of the eccosorb millimeter-wave absorber onto the inner frame where it had started falling off. Jeff and I spent a few hours up there drilling holes and carefully tying the eccosorb up. In addition, in the morning Kyle, Michele, and Andrei shifted some of the balancing weights on the cryostat to a more favorable position to ease the strain on our linear actuator, which was nearing its limits.

The afternoon was devoted mostly to outdoor tests. First we Kevin and Kate tested which detectors we could bias into their superconducting transition for us to use during other tests. After a few hours of that, we gave the gondola over to Chappy and Joy to do more sun sensor calibration.

While we were outdoors, BLAST-Pol was also outside doing compatibility testing. While they didn't finish their testing before weather forced them back inside, I did take the opportunity to get some pictures of both payloads out in the sun!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Day 38, December 1, 2012 -- More power

Today was dedicated mostly to the power system and gondola scanning. First, the power system -- we've been having some strange behavior from our batteries so Britt, Michele, and Kyle spent a fair bit of time today doing debugging. In addition, KyleH and Jeff started assembling our solar arrays that provide power while we're at float altitudes.

In the late afternoon into the evening, we gave the gondola to Joy and Chappy so they could test scans and flight schedule files. At around 10, I drove Kyle back to the high bay so he could babysit the first fridge cycle after the latest fix had been implemented and brought Chappy and Joy back to McMurdo.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 37, November 30, 2012 -- Cacophony!

The high bay can be an incredibly noisy place. Not in the 'hurts your ears to be inside' sense, but the kind of din that gradually creeps up on you and envelops you and you don't notice until it's gone. Besides the constant hum of power supply cooling fans and the incessant dull scream of the liquid cooling pumps running at full blast, there's often various groups of people shouting instructions from downstairs to the mezzanine and vice-versa, drills whining, and the unmistakable sound of the elevation actuator buzzing as it points the telescope up and down and people freak out as they ask "Is the gondola supposed to be moving?!?!" (which it usually is).

Even in this environment, we get work done. Today, as in many days, we weren't dedicated to a specific test so the various sub-teams made progress on their individual priorities as best they could given whatever other constraints the gondola had. The liquid cooling system is now leak-free and filled with the flight coolant, Dynalene HC. Jeff and Kyle spent much of the day testing the HWP system after the control crate heatsinking had been redone. In addition, Kyle and Seth debugged a nagging issue with our heater board commanding that caused some commands to not execute as desired. They think they have found the solution, but further testing is required, and Kyle is overseeing a fridge cycle this evening to check its robustness.

Elsewhere, Britt, Michele, Matt, and Shaul came up with a solution to our battery temperature issue. Our batteries are fancy lithium ion jobs with sophisticated control electronics and a relatively narrow temperature range of 0 to 45 degrees C. Our system was designed for float altitudes, but in our outdoor test a few days back we found that the batteries were getting too cold even with their heaters on. Britt and Michele started the task of cutting foam insulation panels for the batteries to keep them warm during the pre-flight, launch, and ascent phases of the mission.

Other smaller items: I connected up the cables for the bolo power supply filter boxes (harder than it sounds, trust me) and mylarized some foam, KyleH cut some foam panels to close out the top of the BTS, and part of the high bay was cleaned up to make room for the assembly of our massive solar arrays.

Pictures (only a couple today):

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day 36, November 29, 2012 -- Hut

After yesterday's successful outdoor tests, we set about today to address some issues that we either put off in order to focus on the outdoor test or learned as a result of yesterday's test. In the former category, Jeff and KyleH mounted the BRO power filter boxes, I finished taping the corners of the foam scoop ground shield, and Andrei and Michele continued their work on the LCS, ferreting out a few minor but insistent leaks. In the latter category, we made some panels in the BTS to allow access to the flight computer and ACS, and I moved CSBF's GPS antennas from the rear to the front of the antenna bar to allow some more clearance to the crane to make it easier to roll out. In addition, Kyle, Jeff, Shaul, and myself had a discussion about how to do one of our upcoming calibration tests.

Elsewhere at the LDB camp, SuperTIGER did their compatibility test today, which means they are basically flight ready. The launch season can open as early as Dec. 5, so now it's just a waiting game for them. At the same time, BLAST went out to the dance floor to continue their sensor calibration.

In the evening, eight of us went to Discovery Hut, the hut that Captain Robert Scott built during one of his first expeditions to Antarctica. While it wasn't very useful as a living place, due to it being designed for the Australian outback and extremely cold inside, it was used by various expeditions in the early 1900's and still contains 100-year old provisions and seal carcasses along with (non-viable) anthrax spores in the hay they brought for their ponies. Pretty neat.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day 35, November 28, 2012 -- Let's Dance

Today was a busy day -- about half of the team (including me) came in during the wee hours (2AM or 4AM, depending on who) to get the gondola ready for its trip to the so-called "dance floor", a wooden deck set away from the buildings, for sensor calibration tests. After a few hiccups, we managed to get out to the dance floor by about 6AM, at which point Joy and Chappy started with the various tests they needed to do in order to calibrate the various pointing sensors: the star cameras, the magnetometers, the dGPS system, and the sun sensor. We had to bring the gondola back to the high bay around 10AM as the wind started picking up, though we left it outside hanging from the crane for about another hour before we decided the wind was getting too strong and we brought it in.

After lunch, the early crew went back to McMurdo. I took a nap, then after dinner a few of us went on a tour of the pressure ridges, seasonal features in the sea ice created by ice and water movement near Ross Island. It was pretty awesome, walking through these huge waves of ice, seeing the big cracks that permeated the surface, and getting a nice up-close look at some seals that use the cracks in the pressure ridges as a means to get into the water.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day 34, November 27, 2012 -- Chuffed to BTS

Another big couple of changes in the appearance of the experiment today. First, Andrei and Michele installed the radiating panels for the detector electronics' liquid cooling system (LCS) and connected all the plumbing. Then, in the early evening, a few of us stayed a little late and mounted the BTS, the large mylar-covered structure that surrounds the telescope and shields it from the sun. It's huge!

During the day, a bunch of other work was done as well. Matt and Franky fixed an issue with some of our DfMUX boards, Seth and Jeff fixed a CANBus issue (bad cable!), and Jeff additionally did some testing of his rebuilt HWP electronics crate (so far so good). A few people on the team left early to prepare for our first outdoor test tomorrow, a sensor calibration test.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 33, November 26, 2012 -- Milestones

A few milestones that I just noticed: Today marks one month on the ice for the EBEX team, and it has been awesome seeing the progress we've made in that time. Also, this blog passed 20,000 total pageviews some time yesterday (which counts from back in 2009, our Ft. Sumner test flight campaign).

Big news: our fridge cycle worked successfully completely autonomously, which means Kyle can finally get some real sleep and then get back on the day shift.

Otherwise, a lot of activity around the high bay today, as usual these days. KyleH and I did some foam cutting and mylarization for some of the baffling panels that we are waiting to install so people will have access to things on the inner frame. Britt routed some thermometers around on the gondola, I routed the GPS cables along the BTS structure, Shaul worked on mylarizing our synthetic suspension ropes to protect them from sunlight, and Andrei and Michele continued the LCS work. Seth and the CSBF crew spent a large part of the afternoon debugging communications/telemetry issues.


Day 32, November 25, 2012 -- Scooped!

After last night's Thanksgiving festivities, a bunch of us decided to come in at noon instead of the normal 8AM. Once we got in to the high bay, KyleH, Jeff, and I proceeded to mount up the biggest panels on the inner frame baffling, the "scoop". Made of Dow Corning blue Styrofoam and covered in aluminized mylar. Once in place, we started the arduous process of taping down all the seams -- and since the scoop is held on solely by tape, this is very important!

In the meanwhile, Michele and Andrei started connecting the plumbing for the LCS radiator panels. Britt was doing miscellaneous gondola work, tying down cables and whatnot, Shaul started applying silver teflon to the cryostat RF can.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Day 31, November 24, 2012 -- I'm finding it hard to come up with interesting titles!

Overnight, Kyle successfully cycled both our fridges and they have achieved near-nominal performance. This bodes well for the fridge performance during flight.

During the day, we had the CSBF telemetry crew come in and install their cables and antennas on the BTS, which required us to lay the entire 24-foot-tall structure on the floor of the high bay. It just barely fit, and we actually had to first move the gondola outside the door in order to lay the BTS down before bringing the gondola back in and closing the doors. Once the CSBF team started working, KyleH, Jeff, and I continued our work on the inner frame baffling. Jeff and KyleH took the lead on assembling the 'stairstep' baffle structure around the secondary mirror while I put the finishing touches on the sheet metal pieces I made yesterday (a couple holes, a little paint, etc). We then installed everything on the telescope, increasing the experiment's shininess level by about a factor of two.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 30, November 23, 2012 -- Insert title here

Today we did some more prep work to get the baffles installed on the gondola. I made some sheet metal brackets to hold the foam for the upper part of the 'scoop' that surrounds the primary mirror and ended up having to take a short trip into town to have the pieces bent by the crew at the McMurdo sheet metal fab shop.

The ACS crew spent the morning/early afternoon doing scan tests and will be staying late to do more sun sensor calibration tests. Kyle will then come in and cycle the fridges.

No pictures today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 29, November 22, 2012 -- Foam, foam on the range

Overnight, Kyle tried cycling our fridges. One of them cycled successfully, but the other didn't -- and after looking at the data, it appears it started too warm for a successful fridge cycle given that we tried it a day earlier than we have in the past after having filled helium. So we're going to try again tonight, with hopefully better results. Still, the results were good enough that Kevin and Kate could get some of the preliminary bolo info needed to get the system tuned.

In the morning, we also had a visit from McMurdo's helicopter crew to go over various options for recovering the cryostat in the event that the experiment lands close enough to be reached by helicopter. Shaul also finished cleaning the primary mirror, a task that took him the better part of a full working day. In the meantime, I was already scheduled to cut foam for our inner frame baffling, so I was tasked with making a cover for the mirror. So I busted out my trusty high school geometry skills (and refreshed them with wikipedia's article on ellipses) and got two screws and some string and drew an awesome ellipse to match the outline of the primary mirror (which has an elliptical rim but looks like a circle from the point of view of the incoming light to the telescope).

In the afternoon, KyleH, Jeff, and I cut a LOT of foam. Matt and Franky set about debugging the few SQUIDS (5 out of 112) that had some problems tuning by opening up the cryostat RF can and poking about. Seth, Britt, and Michele spent much of the afternoon debugging some spontaneous flight computer rebooting issues. They tracked down the issue to some flaky power pins inside the computer crate and are implementing a solution.

In the other high bay, BLAST-Pol took their gondola outside so they could do some beam maps with their telescope and a chopped source on a shipping container a few hundred feet away from the high bay.


Day 28, November 21, 2012 -- Mirror, mirror, on the...gondola

The mirrors are mounted! We are moving ever closer to having a fully functioning telescope. Besides mounting the mirrors, we refined the routing of the cables as we moved the gondola through its elevation range. We also started assembling the BTS and made some measurements to figure out if we can rotate the experiment in the high bay once everything is fully assembled. Turns out we can -- if we take the wheels off!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Day 27, November 20, 2012 -- Aligned and ready

The big effort today was finishing the alignment of the mirror mounts. This took a little longer than anticipated because the required distances for the primary mirror hexapod were a fair bit different than they had been previously. Kyle and Shaul went over all the numbers in the afternoon and we are convinced that everything is hunky-dory, so we are going to go ahead and mount mirrors tomorrow.

Elsewhere in the high bay, BTS mylarization continued, Matt and Franky worked on routing and securing the detector readout cable dryer hoses, and Andrei worked on crunching some sun sensor calibration data.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Day 26, November 19, 2012 -- Progress!

The progress on the experiment is happening quickly. With the cryostat on the gondola, Shaul and I started the process of mirror mount alignment. Kyle and Andrei made more progress mylarizing the baffles, and Andrei and Michele started work on plumbing the LCS. Franky and Matt worked on connecting detector readout cables and routing them along the gondola.

It's actually kind of amazing how quickly the experiment is coming together -- every day there's noticeable progress and we're making headway towards getting the experiment ready for full system outdoor tests.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day 25, November 18, 2012 -- Cryostat, meet gondola

Another very productive day in Payload 1 at the LDB Camp. The big bit of progress is that we now have the cryostat on the gondola, meaning a whole slew of work can now proceed. Shaul has already started on the mirror alignment process, and we plan on continuing that tomorrow. The cryostat's rate of helium usage is decreasing now as well, which is convenient since it's now quite a bit more difficult to fill with the cryostat on the gondola. Now with the cryostat on the gondola, we have more space in the high bay so baffle mylarizing can proceed much more easily.

Jeff also started rebuilding his half-wave plate electronics crate to add some additional heatsinking hardware. As part of this process, he had to machine a couple of parts, which meant working in CSBF's makeshift machine shop, a Smithy combination mill/lathe in an unheated shipping container. After wrestling with the machine for a little while, Jeff finally prevailed and now has all the parts ready for rebuilding.

Back in the high bay, I continued with silver teflon application on the BROs while Franky and Matt started work on connecting the detector readout cabling to the DfMUX boards, threading the cables through their metallic 'dryer hose' sheaths and attaching them to their designated BROs.


Day 24, November 17, 2012 -- Hanging out

Today was devoted mostly to gondola work. We had excellent weather which meant that we could take the gondola outside the high bay and do some tests that Chappy and Joy have been itching to do for a while. In the morning, we did a star camera test -- which should be quite surprising, given that it's always daylight down here! But it turns out that Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, is actually bright enough to be seen by our star cameras (which have very strong filters to cut out sky brightness) even from the ground here in Antarctica.

In the afternoon, the gondola once again went out, but this time with its back to the sun to do tests of the sun sensor which took most of the afternoon. During the rest of the day, helium fills continued as the cryostat continued to cool -- hopefully only one more day left of late night fills.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 23, November 16, 2012 -- Chillin' with Helium

Big news today: We cooled the cryostat with liquid helium! This is a big milestone for us, because we have verified not only that all of our flight-critical fridge wiring is still working, but that our half-wave plate (which sits on a superconducting bearing) levitates and rotates! The next couple of days will have a fair number of helium fills before the boiloff settles down, so the cryostat crew will be intermittently busy with that.

Elsewhere in the high bay today, progress was made with silver teflon application, baffle mylarizing, battery mounting, and communications with the CSBF SIP hardware.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 22, November 15, 2012 -- Grab bag o' science

The cryostat continues to cool internally, not yet ready for liquid helium, so we busied ourselves with various other tasks to try and get ahead as much as possible. In the morning, we lifted up the cryostat and supported it with jackstands so Kyle and Jeff could install the SQUID controller boards and RF shielding can on the bottom of the cryostat. Because this high bay has only one crane, using it to lift the cryostat meant that we couldn't suspend the gondola, so Michele took the opportunity to work on the battery mounting tables and I got to work covering the BRO crates with silver teflon tape.

Kyle and Jeff finished with the SQUID controllers and the associated cabling early in the afternoon, after which we relinquished the crane so Chappy and Joy could do scan tests with the gondola. I continued silver teflon application on some other flat panels we had sitting on the ground, and Andrei, KyleH, and Jeff started the process of covering the baffle structure in mylar.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 21, November 14, 2012

Somewhat slow day in the high bay yesterday. The cryostat continues to cool, requiring only minimal levels of interaction at the moment. We re-arranged some stuff in the high bay to allow work on covering the Baffle/Triangle Support (BTS), the structure that surrounds the entire experiment, with its aluminized mylar covering.

We also pulled our little boom lift out of its parking spot under the mezzanine because I'll be using it tomorrow to cover the BRO crates in silver teflon. The gondola team also worked on getting the inner frame properly balanced so they could start scan tests. In addition, Seth and our flight engineer, Jill, are making significant progress sorting out communications between the CSBF SIP (Science Instrument Package) electronics and our flight computer.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 20, November 13, 2012 -- Cooling

Today, more progress. Cryostat leak check in the morning, then we cooled it with liquid nitrogen in the evening after pumping the whole day.

On the gondola side, the cryo-dummy was installed today so the ACS team can do scan tests before the cryostat goes in, and Andrei and Kyle finished covering all of the LCS radiator panels with silver teflon.

Also, another EBEX member, Co-I Matt from Montreal, arrived.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 19, November 12, 2012 -- Suspending and grounding

As you may know, EBEX is a big payload. In fact, it is the heaviest payload CSBF has ever flown, and it is so tall we actually weren't even sure we'd be able to pick it up inside the high bay here at the LDB facility in Antarctica. After some measuring, consulting with 3D models, and discussion, we tried it  -- and we can pick the thing up with a whole 8" of travel left on the crane hook -- no problem!

The other big endeavor was debugging grounding issues. After having mounted the bolometer readout (BRO) crates and power system on the gondola, we were finding things electrically shorted to the gondola where they shouldn't have been. Shaul and Franky were on the case, though, and managed to track down the different sources of ground shorts and fix them.

I wasn't actually in the high bay, due to having been up late dealing with the cryostat pumps, but I did get a chance to take some pictures in the fantastic low-sun lighting around 1AM on the road back from LDB.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 18, November 11, 2012 -- Silver teflon

The name of the game today was silver teflon. One of the issues we have to contend with at float is thermal issues -- with no air and intense sun, how do we dissipate the heat generated by some of our more power-hungry electronics?

One means of doing this is by controlling the radiative properties of the object in question. As part of our gondola's thermal design, we have to apply a material we call "silver teflon", which is an adhesive tape made of teflon that is coated with a thin layer of silver on the backside, making it a second-surface mirror. The silver is a good reflector of visible light, and the teflon is a good emitter of infrared, so an object coated in silver teflon tape will actually radiate much of its heat out to the environment even if it sits in direct sunlight.

So today, a large effort was made to start coating critical components in silver teflon. Michele spent a fair amount of time covering our flight computer while Andrei and KyleH tackled the radiating panels of our liquid cooling system.

In the meantime Britt, Shaul, and others continued with the dressing of the gondola with the appropriate cables, etc.


Day 17, November 10, 2012 -- The gondola gets ahead

Sorry for the late update, it has been a busy couple of days. The BROs were mounted on the gondola today (today = the date of today's post), and then the inner frame was subsequently mounted onto the outer frame, joining the two major parts of the gondola.

In other news, Kevin, Kate, and Andrei arrived at McMurdo last night, bringing the total number of EBEX team members on the ice to 14.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Day 16, November 9, 2012 -- Day off

With the cryostat pumpout proceeding routinely, a few of us decided to take a day off while we had the chance. Michele and Britt wanted to ski the so-called Cape Armitage loop that goes around the peninsula on which McMurdo base sits to Scott Base, the Kiwi encampment on the other side (and that we pass by every day on the way to LDB). Chappy, Joy, and I decided to hike out to Castle Rock, one of the prominent features on the landscape near McMurdo.

Before that, though, I slept -- I slept until nearly 10:30AM, got a quick breakfast, went to the gym, and then met up with Chappy and Joy at lunch where we planned our departure from McMurdo for around 2:15PM. I then went back to my room to pack up the necessary equipment, including most of my ECW gear as it's strongly suggested to take it along in case one gets caught in inclement weather. We then filed our trip plan and checked out at the Firehouse where we received our 2-way radio, setting a deadline of 7:15PM before they would start emergency search and rescue operations in motion if they hadn't heard from us.

The weather was great for the hike -- clear and sunny, with a persistent but relatively mild wind the entire time. The hike is about 3.5 miles each way, and offered stunning views both over McMurdo and in both directions over the ice shelf, one of which is usually obscured by the ridge that we were hiking along. There's really not much I can say about this -- I'll let the pictures do the talking.

We got back in town by 6PM, checked back in at the Firehouse, and managed to meet Ivan the TerraBus right as they were arriving back in town from LDB. Then dinner, Antarctica Trivia Night at one of the pubs (at which we did extremely poorly, knowing nearly nothing about Antarctica), and then sleep.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Day 15, November 8, 2012 -- Leak free!

Big news today -- the cryostat is leak free! This means we pre-cool the cryostat with liquid nitrogen tomorrow. But when I say "we", I really mean "someone else" -- because I'm taking the day off! In other big news, Franky has the DfMUX system completely up and running, with 100% of our readout boards installed and functioning in our readout crates.

KyleH, Britt, and Michele continued doing gondola mechanical work while Joy spent some quality time outdoors calibrating our differential GPS system.

Tonight is "American Night" at the New Zealand base just up the road from McMurdo, Scott Base, so a few of us are going there to check it out.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 14, November 7, 2012 -- Election day!

Not that crazy in the high bay today. Kyle, Shaul, and I came in a little late, catching a ride with the LDB camp manager Scott, due to having stayed late last night. The first thing we did was switch the cryostat from its roughing pump to the two turbo pumps. Then it was a hodgepodge of random stuff -- helping out with gondola work or bolometer readout work.

The biggest  news in the high bay, of course, is the US election. Since mid-afternoon, we've been obsessively checking the election returns on the web. Hopefully we'll get to know the answer before we go to bed tonight (barring the need for recounts and the like).


Day 13, November 6, 2012 -- Leaks and fixes

Remember how excited I was a couple days ago that our cryostat was closed and pumping? Well, it turns out that it had a leak, and a big one at that. After some time trying to debug where the leak was coming from and only being able to vaguely determine it came from somewhere near the window, we vented the cryostat and put the whole window assembly on its small test setup (to avoid having to repump the entire cryostat just to leak check the window). We were able to determine that the glue joint that held our plastic window to an aluminum sealing ring (that then mated to a regular rubber o-ring) had nearly completely de-bonded at some point between our testing in Texas and here, and it turns out that broken epoxy is a terrible vacuum seal (no surprise there).

After mulling over various options, we decided to eliminate the aluminum ring completely and sand the window smooth enough to mate with the o-ring directly. This approach has worked successfully on various other experiments, and we were able to make it work for us as well. We also did a thermal test by leaving the window test setup outside for an hour or so until it got to about -10C and found that it still held vacuum.

Elsewhere in the high bay, the gondola team got the star cameras mounted to the inner frame and some of the other electronics boxes mounted, Franky and Jeff continued work on the BROs, and Kyle worked on checking out one of our so-called "general housekeeping" (GHK) boards that reads various sensors from around the gondola and controls other bits of hardware.

Kyle, Shaul, and I ended up staying late at the high bay to finish the leak testing and re-close the cryostat. We got back to McMurdo a little before 10PM, and I went straight to bed.
No pictures today, since we were pretty busy. Now go vote!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 12, November 5, 2012 -- Hut Point

A lot of activity in the high bay today -- Michele and I started populating the inner frame with hardware, Britt buttoned up the ACS for the (hopefully) final time, Franky and Jeff worked on various DfMUX-related issues, and the CSBF crew installed the SIP on the EBEX gondola. We also did a first, rough, leak check on the EBEX cryostat and found no evidence for leaks -- hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to do a more sensitive test. In addition, a few of us had light vehicle driver training, so we are now qualified to drive the NSF red vans in case we need to make trips to/from the high bay outside of the regular shuttle hours. We took the opportunity to drive one of the vans back to McMurdo from LDB at the day's end, which was much faster than taking Ivan The Terra Bus.

After dinner, a fair number of us took a trip out to Hut Point to check it out. Not only is the view from there amazing, with vast vistas stretching out across the ice shelf, there are also seals! Weddell seals, to be specific, which are the only Antarctic seal species to hang out on solid sea ice rather than broken-up pack ice (as we learned during the Sunday night science lecture). There were even some pups!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day 11, November 4, 2012 -- In like Flynn

After pumping overnight with on our vacuum roughing pump, we set up the cryostat today to pump with our two turbomolecular pumps to prepare the cryostat for cooling in the next few days. In the process, I cleaned up a bit and rearranged things in the high bay to prepare for moving the gondola inner frame, which had heretofore been languishing in its shipping container out on the ice, into the high bay.

In the afternoon, Michele, Shaul, and I went out into the cold to bring in some of the stuff that was in the way of the inner frame in the shipping container. Then we got help from CSBF to get it on a forklift and bring it over to the high bay.

In the meantime, Britt and Seth moved the ACS and flight computer over to near where Franky has the BROs set up so they can do some software testing with the BROs.


Day 10, November 3, 2012 -- Closed and pumping!

Another productive day in the high bay. The biggest news, in my opinion, is that the cryostat is closed and we are in the process of pumping most of the air out of it. This is a big milestone, and we encountered no major problems, which is encouraging! Kyle and I ended up needing to stay a little later than the shuttle bus runs, so we arranged for Dave Sullivan, the CSBF Antarctic operations manager, to drive back a bit later in one of the NSF vans to pick us up.

Chappy got the second star camera closed up, Michele finished all of the modifications to the flight computer, and our detector readout hardware arrived from Montreal, so Franky and Jeff spent some time unpacking and setting it up.

In addition, Shaul arrived late yesterday from Minnesota, so he spent his first full day here in Antarctica today.

Pictures (mostly EBEX hardware):

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day 9, November 2, 2012 -- Closer to closing

The cryostat team (Kyle, Jeff, and myself) managed to get the cryostat a fair amount of the way towards being closed up and on the vacuum pump. We removed the instrument after yesterday's aligning, Jeff installed the HWP system and fully tested it, Kyle and I finished the instrument's thermal and electrical connections, we re-installed the optical filters in the optics stack at 4K and 77K, re-installed the instrument for the final time into the cryostat, installed SQUIDs, and connected detectors to their SQUID boards. Whew! Tomorrow, all we have left to do is wiring checks, closing up shells, and installing the window assembly before pumping.

The gondola team was also busy. Michele finished re-assembling the rotator while Britt worked on debugging the temperature channels in the gondola thermometry. In addition, Chappy and Michele reassembled the first star camera (unfortunately named ESC0, because Chappy is a computer scientist at heart who loves zero-indexing) to get it ready for its dry nitrogen purge. Seth was probably also really productive, but it's hard to see progress in software in the high bay on a day to day basis.

Only a few pictures today:

Day 8, November 1, 2012 -- Take a hike!

Ok, we did stuff in the high bay today, sure. Kyle and I finished the alignment of all the lenses in the cryostat. Michele and Jeff put the rotator back together. Franky worked on DfMUX board heatsinking, yadda yadda yadda.

The real excitement today came after the work day had ended. Kyle, Franky, Chappy, Joy, and myself went on a hike up to the top of Observation (Ob) Hill, the really pointy hill right next to McMurdo base. Despite being a relatively short hike, the vertical gain was about 750 feet in about 1.5 miles, and it was surprisingly difficult, with loose rock and a fair amount of snow combining with steep dropoffs making it somewhat treacherous. And the wind was also nuts, probably blowing at about 20-30 mph in combination with the near-zero-Fahrenheit temperatures. Still, we prevailed, and I was able to take a picture of us triumphant at the top thanks to having lugged my tripod all the way up.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day 7, October 31, 2012 -- Halloween, Antarctica

Lots of activity at the high bay today. Kyle and I continued our alignment of the "instrument" optics and were finished by 2PM and have started finishing up the rest of the instrument (putting on the shielding, cryogenics, and wiring). Jeff removed one of the baffles from inside the cryostat and removed our neutral density filter, used in Palestine to attenuate the signal so our detectors wouldn't be saturated and useless there, in preparation for flying at balloon altitudes.

On the ACS/gondola side, Britt continued rewiring the solar power crates and Chappy continued work on one of the star cameras, preparing to purge the pressure vessel with nitrogen gas. We also brought our rotator in and Michele set about cleaning and re-lubricating the bearings. Jeff had a little bit of time free so he helped Britt by drilling some holes on the gondola for the charge controller covers.

We also had a subset of the Aussie crew stop by to check out what we were doing. And in the evening a few of us went to a screening of one episode of the "Frozen Earth" documentary series. Even though it is Halloween, McMurdo's big Halloween party was last weekend, and I missed it. In the spirit of the day and the location, though, Chappy dressed as a penguin.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 6, October 30, 2012 -- Made to measure

Today was my first full day in Antarctica, which meant that I actually had to do some work. Kyle finished up connecting the detector wiring inside the instrument's RF shielding towers and Jeff did wire checks on the HWP assembly. I started disassembling the cryostat optics stack in preparation for eventual lens alignment measurements.

In the afternoon, Kyle and I started the often frustrating and lengthy task of lens alignment. We got the first two lenses aligned before we had to leave the high bay for the day. Luckily, we got to take the more-comfortable TerraBus transport (nicknamed "Ivan" in "Ivan the TerraBus". Yep.), which takes about 35 minutes to get from the LDB camp back to McMurdo. The route to and from McMurdo winds around Ross Island, passing by the New Zealand base on Ross Island, Scott Base, before heading out onto the ice shelf in the shadow of Mt. Erebus.

We were joined in the morning by Zak, Jamie, and Chin-Lin from the Keck Array experiment, a competitor in the CMB polarization game that's based at the South Pole. They are 'in transit' on their way to the Pole to work on Keck, but have been delayed getting out due to plane mechanical issues. There are a lot of people at the base that are supposed to have already left (including the 54 Aussies who were headed out to the Australian base but had to return to McMurdo due to bad weather), making McMurdo pretty crowded. Hopefully those people will start filtering out over the next few days (assuming the plane gets fixed!) and things will settle down a bit in town.

In the evening, after dinner, we attended an outdoor safety briefing which highlighted some of the hiking routes around McMurdo and the necessary safety precautions one must take when out and about. We're planning on taking a hike maybe tomorrow or Thursday.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 5, October 29, 2012 -- Ice, Ice, Baby.

I awoke at 4:30 AM in order to get ready for our 5:30AM pickup to go back to the CDC for our flight to the ice. I decided to redistribute some of my clothing in more usable manner for flight. Basically the way it works is you get one carry-on bag and as many checked bags as you want as long as the total weight is under 150 lbs. You designate one of your checked bags as a "boomerang" bag -- if the plane has to turn back to New Zealand due to weather conditions at McMurdo, you're given back your boomerang bag but your other luggage is left palletized for easy loading. And you have to carry on or wear on your person a fair amount of your ECW gear. Anyway, it requires a bit of thinking to figure out how best to distribute all of your stuff.

At around 8AM, after a video briefing, we boarded a shuttle bus that took us across the street to the plane, a C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane. The plane itself was outfitted with a section of airline style seats along with a row of jump seats along each side of the plane. Besides the roughly 100 passengers on their way to Antarctica, we were joined by a large cryogenic tank of liquid oxygen in the cargo hold as well as a bunch of other, less dangerous, cargo in the rear of the plane.

The flight takes about 5 hours, and was completely uneventful. If not for the exposed ducting and wiring, it feels a lot like being on a regular airliner. It's not even much louder.

Stepping off the plane is a sight to behold. We land on the Ross Ice Shelf, and walking out we see Ross Island in the near distance (which is where McMurdo is located) as well as the majestic Mount Erebus, an active nearly-13,000-foot-tall volcano that is something like 30 miles away but looks like it's just behind Ross Island. And we were lucky enough to have absolutely stunning weather, with clear blue skies and relatively warm weather (I'd estimate it was about 15 or 20 degrees F). I met up with the CSBF LDB program coordinator in Antarctica, Dave, after our post-flight debriefing/orientation and we headed out to Williams Field, where the LDB program is located. I was able to meet up with the rest of the crew that had already arrived and found a high bay already organized and set up for efficient working. The gondola outer frame is sitting in the high bay while the inner frame is still in the shipping container. The cryostat is open and Kyle and Jeff have been working on assembling the instrument.

We left the LDB camp at 5:30PM, taking a ride on one of the older people transports (called "the Delta") and headed back to McMurdo for dinner, etc. Kyle helped me reset the bed height in my room  -- apparently McMurdo is very crowded this year, and I am the third person in what is supposed to be a two-person dorm room, which means I have a top bunk and no place to store my belongings. One my roommates is a CSBF rigger, but the other is a scientist who is scheduled to leave for a field camp in early November, so hopefully we'll have some more breathing room after that.

Word to your mother.


Day 4, October 28, 2012 -- The clothes make the man

On Sunday, I went to the USAP Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) to be outfitted with my Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear that everyone deploying to the ice is issued. It was there that I realized I had brought way too much stuff -- one of the advantages of living in Minnesota is that I already have a whole bunch of clothing suitable to significantly sub-freezing conditions (though probably not the"extreme" cold that Antarctica can have). So I brought a fair amount of that stuff with me...and once I got to the CDC I realized it was mostly redundant with clothing we were issued. Ah well.

On the way to the CDC I met up with a few members of another CMB telescope, the Keck Array, who were also heading to the Antarctic. While their final destination is the South Pole Station, they have to go through McMurdo first. I also met up with Franky at the CDC. After we got our clothing, we went to grab a beer at a bar just outside the City Centre area. Afterward, Franky and I went to a place called the Brewers Arms which offers a "Wild Meat Plate" that includes pork, kangaroo, ostrich, and venison, all served on a hot stone. For what it's worth -- kangaroo is delicious.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Day 3, October 27, 2012 -- I want to ride my bicycle

With another whole day free, I had arranged yesterday to rent a bicycle for the today. Christchurch is a relatively flat city, for the most part (though surrounded by hills), so cycling is a relatively easy way to get around, and the drivers are quite conscientious and courteous to cyclists. Many of the major roads also have bike lanes. The bike I was given was a Specialized Hardrock hardtail mountain bike -- solid, but heavy, especially as I am used to riding road bikes. Still, the fat tires were welcome since I didn't bring any cycling clothing. Less welcome was the consistent squeak while riding that was coming from the front brake.

I started off heading roughly eastward in order to hit the coast and see the Pacific Ocean at Brighton beach, where I also found a lovely library and was able to check my email. From there I headed down along the estuary to a village called Sumner (fighting strong wind much of the way), a charming little hamlet of shops and houses right on the ocean. I had a lunch of fish and chips, which has been probably the first reasonably priced meal of my entire stay so far, at approximately NZ$10 for two pieces of fish, a plentiful 'half' order of chips, and a canned soda. At the current exchange rate, that works out to about US$8. Pretty much everywhere else, the food seems to cost about double what you might expect to pay in the States (i.e. something that might be US$15 would be NZ$30). I guess that's the (literal) price one pays for being on an island where much has to be imported.

From Sumner, I headed back along the coast/estuary and then westward, intending to climb a fire road called the Rapaki Track and get a view of the city from on high. Unfortunately for myself, I was already pretty tired from biking around (I had already done about 40km) so I only made it roughly 1/3 of the way up the trail. Still, even from there I got a pretty good view of the city before heading back down and into the City Centre area again.

In City Centre, I once again availed myself of the free wi-fi in order to check my email (on my phone) and got myself a smoothie from one of the food vendors. I then headed back to the hotel, tired but happy to have been able to enjoy being outside all day in a city as lovely as Christchurch. In the end I biked a little over 50km total.

Speaking of lovely -- the people in Christchurch are probably the nicest people, as a whole, that I've ever met. Everyone is super friendly and helpful, and it's really a joy to experience.


Day 2, October 26, 2012 -- Off to the ice...for everyone else

On Friday morning, I was up at about 5AM (jet lag) to see the rest of the team (Kyle and Jeff from UMN; Britt, Michele, Joy, Chappy, and Seth from Columbia) off to their 5:30AM shuttle taking them to their flight to the ice at 9AM. Because I arrived later than they did, I hadn't completed all the preliminaries for traveling to Antarctica, so I'd be spending the weekend in Christchurch. And with them gone, I was left to my own devices.

I wandered away from the hotel at about 7AM to find some breakfast. Unfortunately, I wandered in the wrong direction, and there were no breakfast restaurants along my chosen path. There was, however, a supermarket, so I bought some breakfast supplies and headed back to the hotel. After a quick bite, I puttered around for a bit trying to get the hotel wi-fi to work (it didn't, hence the lack of posts). I finally gave up and asked the reception desk where I could go to get a bit of internet, and they pointed me in the opposite direction to where I had gone in the morning. After about a 20 minute walk, I found myself at a cafe in the Merivale district, finally able to check my email.

I kept going in that direction in order to get back to the City Centre area, but this time I had a mission. I had heard that post-earthquake Christchurch had set up a temporary 'downtown' area with businesses using repurposed shipping containers as buildings. This area, on Cashel Street, was awesome. Food vendors, businesses, and people bustling about made for a lively scene. AND -- free wi-fi in the entire area! The container buildings were super cool -- brightly colored and interestingly arranged.

From Cashel Street I wandered over to the Christchurch Botanic Garden. While quite lush and with a wide variety of plants, I have to say I didn't find it very compelling -- especially on a slightly chilly, overcast day. And maybe I just hate plants. I spent about 20 minutes wandering and then left back for the hotel.

Once back at the hotel, I made some arrangements for the following day, showered, and then went across the street to one of the numerous takeaway food establishments near the hotel. This particular place was basically a no-brainer, since it was called "Burger Wisconsin". Yep. How could I not try it? I brought my food back to the hotel, ate, and then went to bed.


Day 1, October 23, 2012 --A long day

Apologies for the delayed posting -- I have had nearly no internet access while in Christchurch.

This log starts with flying -- lots of flying. I flew from Minneapolis to Dallas to Los Angeles to Sydney to Christchurch. For me,  I left at 1PM on Tuesday in Minneapolis and arrived in Christchurch at about 3PM on Thursday (the 25th) in New Zealand for a total of about 32 hours of travel. Despite NZ being 18 hours ahead of Minneapolis, I'm going to call this (long) day Day 1 for the purposes of this edition of the blog.

Once I made it through NZ customs and to the hotel (completely knackered, by the way, since I slept very little on the over-Pacific leg of the flight), I met up with the rest of the crew that arrived the day prior. For dinner, we took a bus down to the City Centre area of Christchurch to find a brewpub that Jeff had picked out. Christchurch was quite badly hit by an enormous earthquake in 2008 (?) and subsequent aftershocks. A large part of the City Centre area, in particular the older buildings, were rendered unsafe by the quakes. Walking through this area to get to dinner was a bit saddening. On the bright side, the place we ended up at (Pomeroy's, if you're ever in Christchurch) was a treat, with excellent house-brewed beer and great old-world ambiance.

No pictures today -- the only one I took was a blurry one of downtown Sydney from the plane, and not really worth posting!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 0, 10/22/2012 -- Prologue to Antarctica

Well, everyone, it's time. At this very moment, the first members of the EBEX team are on their way to McMurdo base in Antarctica by way of Christchurch, New Zealand. It's a long trip -- about 32 hours for the Minnesota team and 36 for the Columbia team; having left today, they won't arrive in Christchurch until the evening of Wednesday, the 24th (NZ time). I myself will be leaving tomorrow; as usual, I will endeavor to provide daily updates on the team's progress along with pictures of our experience. I think it will be an exciting adventure, hopefully culminating in a successful ~10 day flight circumnavigating the Antarctic continent and eventual recovery of the payload.

As you may have noticed, I've updated the blog color scheme to reflect our new situation -- nearly white with a tinge of blue, in honor of our upcoming icy home and its permanent austral summer daylight below the Antarctic circle.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Day 100, 9/5/2012 -- 100 Days of Summer

Or, Bemco Day II: Electric Boogaloo.

We got in early today so we could start today's Bemco test of the double window mechanism as early as possible. After starting the test around 8:30AM, Kyle and I went back to the high bay to figure out what else we could pack up into the shipping containers.

By around 11AM, we had packed all we could. At this point, Kyle was ready to test the double window, a task which took his attention for most of the rest of the day. I sat around and did nothing, basically (thank FSM for Netflix). By 4PM, the Bemco test was (successfully) completed and everything was removed and packed. We finished staging the final items to be loaded in containers tomorrow, which we will do first thing in the morning before hitting the road for Dallas and our return flight to Minneapolis.

I suppose here, on a nice round number, is as good a time as any to end this edition of EBEX in Flight. Next time I update: Antarctica!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Day 99, 9/4/2012 -- Bemco Day!

After getting our first round of components to Bemco test set up last night, basically everything was ready to go this morning when we got in. We had a few small issues setting up the CSBF programmable load, but once those kinks were ironed out, the test started and ran smoothly all day. Unfortunately, since the monitoring software for the Bemco doesn't record temperatures, and because we had to record temperatures from three disparate sources (Bemco thermocouples on a computer screen, AD590 temperature sensors read out via CANBus by one of the housekeeping boards inside the power crate, and the onboard temperature sensors on the HWP DfMUX boards read out via webpages over Ethernet), we had to record data by hand every 10-20 minutes. Kyle took on the task of babysitting the test, which lasted for about 5 hours.

During that time, I continued packing the things I could. I got the second Knaack box closed up and in its shipping container (with Kyle's help to maneuver it inside the container), and once the Bemco testing was done I finished packing up the bolometer readout hardware for its trip to Montreal for some timing debugging and the HWP crate for shipment to the ice. Tomorrow promises to be a long day, with another long Bemco test overseen by Kyle as well as a fair amount of packing things into containers.


Monday, September 3, 2012

Day 98, 9/3/2012 -- Just forkin' around on Labor Day

One nice thing about having our Bemco testing delayed until this week is that it has given us time to pack up the experiment in a relatively leisurely manner. Today, we spent the morning packing things into our shipping containers, with our electronics going into our "no freeze" container and other things distributed into other containers. The afternoon was spent indoors, setting up for our Bemco test and packing up some of the odds and ends lying about the high bay. At the end of the day, once the containers were in the shadow of the high bay, we went back outside and added a few more things to the containers. All of this action-packing requires pretty regular use of a forklift, and as Kyle does not have a license to operate the NASA forklift, I have to do all of the forklift operation. Not that I'm complaining -- it's pretty fun.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Day 97, 9/2/2012 -- And then there were two

The remnants of the Columbia crew (Britt, Joy, and Chappy) left today, leaving myself, Kyle, and a bunch of bugs as the only denizens of the high bay. We did a little more straightening up in the morning, and then Kyle got to work reassembling the double window system for its Bemco testing on Wednesday. I put together the LCS pump, reservoir, and some tubing so we can test the repaired LCS motor at the same time as the double window cold test. The rest of the time was spent packing electronics to put in our "no freeze" shipping container.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Day 96, 9/1/2012 -- High cube away!

Another day full of activity here in Palestine. Our high cube container was put on a truck headed for Port Hueneme this morning. Columbia managed to get most of their stuff packed into containers today, with just one or two things left for tomorrow before they leave.

Kyle and I spent the morning and part of the afternoon getting the cryostat ready to pack up, put in its shipping crate, and then put in a shipping container. After that, we were finally able to start cleaning up our area of the high bay, shutting down and packing computers, cleaning up cables, etc. Another solid day of this and we'll have most of the stuff packed.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 95, 8/31/2012 -- Break it down

Today Kyle and I opened up the cryostat and started the disassembly and shipping preparations for the cold stuff -- removing SQUID controller boards, SQUID mounting boards, the instrument insert, and the half-wave-plate system. Kyle spent most of the afternoon then disassembling the instrument RF-shielded wiring towers while I disassembled and packed the half-wave-plate system.

On the north side of the high bay, the Columbians were hard at work packing up all of their stuff to be packed into shipping containers. In the afternoon, Britt was able to piggyback on one of the CSBF Bemco tests and verify that the new power system isolation diodes were sufficiently-well heatsunk -- and they were, to the tune of a 60-degree safety margin!


Day 94, 8/30/2012 -- High cube packed

The high cube container with most of the gondola bits is packed and ready for fumigation (Friday) and shipping to Port Hueneme (Saturday) for its eventual date with a boat -- and it was done about 20 hours ahead of schedule!

The gondola team has started packing up their equipment and have made a fair amount of progress. We still have to wait until the cryostat is warmed and fully prepared for shipping, as we will likely need many of the tools and other supplies as we do that. Still, Kyle successfully manged to get our CANBus programs working on his laptop and we made some wiring, both of which will help facilitate our Bemco tests next week.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Day 93, 8/29/2012 -- Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin

Today we made a massive amount of progress in packing the experiment for shipping. We started early -- Britt and Michele at 6:30AM -- to get the gondola ready for the removal of the cryostat and the disassembly of the inner/outer frames. Kyle and I showed up at 7:30 to assist with cryostat removal, which went very smoothly.

After that, we then got the inner frame removed from atop the outer frame and set on the ground. At that point, Kyle and I went to attend to some matters with the cryostat (empyting its helium tank of liquid nitrogen to allow it to warm up further, backfilling with nitrogen gas, and wrapping the exterior with heater straps) while Britt and Michele proceeded to remove components from the gondola (flight computers, cables, sensors, etc).

Once Kyle and I finished the immediate cryostat work, I went back over to the gondola to assist in the disassembly whilst Kyle immersed himself in the vagaries of CANBus on Linux in preparation for our upcoming Bemco testing of various components.

Michele, Matt, and Kevin then left a little after 11AM; Britt and I then continued working on gondola disassembly and awaited the arrival of the riggers to assist us in loading the inner and outer frames into our large shipping container. They arrived around 12:45 and we had both large pieces plus the "triangle" spreader bar loaded into the container by 1:45, give or take a few minutes.

Britt and I continued to load things into the container for the remainder of the day. Kyle took a break from CANBus around 4PM to fill the helium tank with warm water to accelerate its warming, which causes it to reach 273K (ice water temperature) nearly instantly. The cryostat has been left to complete its warming overnight.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day 92, 8/28/2012 -- Warm it up, Kris

Another busy day in the high bay as we prepare to pack up and ship the experiment to the ice. First Kevin and I took a little bit more data through our downlink system at various rates while scanning to get a handle on how to deal with our signals as we will see them. Then, I regripped the half-wave plate and boiled off the rest of the helium in the tank. In order to warm up the instrument as quickly as possible, we then refilled the tank with liquid nitrogen to bring it up to 77K nearly immediately. The internals of the system (the lenses and detectors, mostly) still have to warm up, so we left it at 77K for the rest of the night.

We then removed all of the detector readout electronics and associated hardware from the gondola in preparation for the removal of the cryostat tomorrow and the disassembly of the inner/outer frame.

No pictures today, and likely not many for the next few days -- we're facing a pretty tight shipping deadline for our large shipping container (Friday!) and it has to have ALL of the large gondola items in it before it leaves. I'll try, though!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 91, 8/27/2012 -- Get low

Today was a pretty busy day for us in the high bay. First thing in the morning, Jeff and I added a little bit of liquid helium to the cryostat so it didn't run out during the day. We then helped Michele remove the legs off the gondola to bring it down to a more manageable height to help facilitate the testing we were planning on doing during the day.

We then set up some hardware above the cryostat in order to repeat an experiment we did a few days back but hopefully get higher signal to noise -- and boy, did we ever. Our previous attempt used a small, millimeter-wave-absorptive chopper blade that alternately covered and uncovered a bit of bare aluminum, and gave us a small but measurable signal. This time, we had a big absorptive chopper blade that repeatedly eclipsed a large styrofoam cooler filled with absorber and liquid nitrogen. Instead of a few tens to a hundred counts of signal, we saw a thousand, and we clearly saw signals in every detector. So we set up our first experiment and then went to lunch.

Over lunch, Michele, Jeff, and I talked with a member of the SuperTIGER team about his experience recovering another payload, BESS, that had a similarly large and unwieldy main element -- in our case, the cryostat; in theirs, their magnet. It was an enlightening experience -- especially the part where he said they camped on the ice for 13 days while they disassembled the experiment!

Of course, having such a huge signal-to-noise can be a blessing and a curse, because then you can imagine many other experiments to do with more or less the same setup -- so what we had planned to be a 2-3 hour experiment ended up lasting the whole day as we did various incarnations of the experiments.

Matt was kind enough to organize a grillin' out on the patio area at CSBF and took it upon himself to cook and otherwise prepare a nice little social gathering before many people leave tomorrow.


Bonus video (albeit overexposed and with jerky zooming and focusing) of the big chopper blade spinning: