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.