Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Settling into a routine....

I knew I wouldn't be very good at posting to a blog. We've been pretty busy the last few days, so haven't had much time for it. I expect things will slow down once we have a few payloads ready to launch!

Yesterday, we had a brief period of decent weather, so Max and David were able to get outside to test all the solar panels. Here is Max checking out one of our payloads, and David in the background load testing the batteries for our termination system (above).

We work on the mezzanine of a high bay and have a nice view down to the NASA Superpressure balloon (SPB) payload. The red thing in the huge box (left) is their balloon! Well, the balloon isn't red - that's just a protective plastic sleeve.

The days seem a bit long so far - 24 hours of sunlight really does mess up your schedule. I don't even wear a watch at home because I have a pretty good sense of time. Here, I am totally screwed up. Yesterday, I checked to see if it was time for lunch and it was only 9:30 AM! We work seven days a week with the same schedule every day, so it is also hard to keep track of what day it is - especially when it is a different day than it is back home! Friday is my assigned laundry day, so I guess that should help me keep track. But, we're settling in and making good progress.

Ever wonder what a port-a-potty looks like in Antarctica? Here is a picture of one of ours (the thing that looks like a blue icebox). Ok, so they did actually install a flush-toilet out at our worksite this year. But, I don't really mind the port-a-potty. There's no line!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Arrival in McMurdo

Three BARREL team members (Max Comess, David McGaw, and Robyn Millan) arrived in McMurdo on Tuesday, Nov. 17 after a one-day delay in Christchurch, New Zealand. We spent the rest of Tuesday getting our dorm room assignments, picking up linens, picking up our checked luggage, and attending an outdoor safety briefing. 

On Wednesday, we went out to our work site - the "LDB site" near Williams Field. It is located on the permanent ice shelf, about 10 km from McMurdo. Things are a bit different compared to my last trip to the ice (1999/2000). The LDB facility includes two huge new payload buildings (right).  The old "pig barn" where we used to prepare payloads for launch is now almost completely buried. There is also a new galley and we have our own chef. The food is fantastic!
     Our work area is located on the mezzanine in one of the payload buildings. Yesterday, we unpacked and set up our workspace (right) and managed to get halfway through testing of payload 1.  Not bad for the first day!

But...this is Antarctica! Today, we are stuck in McMurdo town (which is why I had time to write this blog!) There are really high winds here, and especially out on the ice shelf. They have called "Condition 2" which means wind speeds of 48-55 knots, wind chills of –75F to –100F, OR visibility of less than 1/4 of a mile. Hopefully the winds will let up soon so we can get back to work!

- Posted by Robyn
(pictures by David McGaw)


Welcome to the BARREL 2009/2010 Antarctic balloon campaign!!

BARREL is a balloon experiment to study Earth's radiation belts. The project is supported by the NASA Living With a Star Program. Read more about the BARREL science objectives.
     The BARREL science team consists of personnel from Dartmouth College, University of Washington, U. C. Berkeley, and U. C. Santa Cruz. The project is managed by the NASA Balloon Program Office.
     This season, we are launching five prototype balloon payloads from McMurdo, Antarctica. Campaign operations are supported by the  Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility and the National Science Foundation.

Each BARREL payload is 2' X 2' X 2' and weighs about 50 lbs.  A 300,000 cubic foot helium-filled balloon will carry each payload to about 30 km altitude.
    The primary instrument is a sodium iodide scintillator to detect X-rays produced by radiation belt electrons as they enter Earth's atmosphere. Each payload also carries a magnetometer, GPS receiver, and an Iridium satellite model used for telemetering data to our ground station at U. C. Santa Cruz. Power is provided by solar panels, taking advantage of the 24 hour Antarctic sun!