Ted's Boomerang 2002 Antarctic Web Log

Frequently Asked Questions

Current Mission Status: We Have Landed!

  • View all of the tracks of balloons launched so far this season at the N.S.B.F. website here. This is real-time data from the onboard GPS receivers.
  • If you have a computer that can view proprietary Micro$oft Windoze media formats (I don't), you can view a webcam broadcast of Willie Field here.
  • Here is some Antarctic news and weather from our newspaper, the Antarctic Sun.

Stable Flight

January 08, 2003 11:33 (NZ)

We are now in the second day of flight, and everything is still working! After the telescope left our line of sight (when it was about 300 miles away), we switched our communications over from direct transmission to satellite. During flight, all of our data is written to hard drive and data tape by the onboard flight computers. A lower quality sample of the data is also trasmitted in real time via satellite to a computer in Texas. We can then look at this data and see how things are going. Everything about the flight (where to point the telescope, transferring flight control to backup computers in case of a reboot, etc) is automated, and we only need to intervene if something breaks. Since everything is working, we have started to pack up the things that we can, in order to save time later on. Many of our team are leaving in a few days, so it's great to get some of the packing done now while we still have more people. If the track of our balloon remains fairly constant, we will end up with something like a total flight time of 18 days. That means I won't be home until the very end of January or so...

Launch Day!!

January 06, 2003 20:13 (NZ)

After a long night we finally had a day of good weather. At 9am we began the process of rolling the telescope outside, attaching the solar panels for the satellite communications package, and hanging the telescope on the launch vehicle. We then drove to the launch pad, which is a large circular area of hard packed snow. During the afternoon, the parachute and balloon were laid out. Just before launch, the ground winds picked up and caused the balloon to toss around quite a bit when it was released. Fortunately the rigging guys managed to keep the telescope from banging too badly into the launch vehicle. The telescope is currently at 110,000 feet and still climbing. All of our systems (pointing sensors and motors, microwave detectors, cryostat, flight computers, etc) are operating normally. Yippee!

The Winds are Dying Down

January 06, 2003 02:31 (NZ)

Out here at the barn it's the wee hours of the morning, and the winds have died down considerably from the stormy, snowy conditions of the past couple days. Hopefully these conditions will last through tomorrow so that we can launch this thing. We've stayed up late finishing the last few details, and we hope to be ready to roll out of the barn at 8:30am. We can get all set up on the launch pad, but we can't launch until we do a final satellite check at 1pm (when the satellite comes into view from our location). We are all very anxious to fly, and it's starting to make us a little edgy. This afternoon there was a baby Weddell seal out here at Willy Field. It was cute, but also sad, since he was probably too far from the water to survive... Another member of our team, Brendan, arrived yesterday evening. Brendan was down here for the 1998 flight, so we had a bit of a reunion.

Launch Window Tomorrow

January 04, 2003 15:18 (NZ)

The weather is clearing up, and we will try to launch tomorrow morning. The fridge will be cycled tonight, so we should be ready to go as soon as the NSBF guys get in at 8am. Tonight there is a complete communications outage for McMurdo (phone, internet, etc) while they perform repairs on the satellite ground station. Hopefully my next post will say that we have launched!

Compatibility Success

January 02, 2003 17:46 (NZ)

Yesterday we started the 36 hour process of refilling our liquid helium and cycling our helium-3 refrigerator. Since we couldn't launch today, we instead decided to do our pre-launch compatibility check-out (we would have had to do this on launch day otherwise). The wind picked up during this test, but with some webbing straps and a few people holding the gondola, we managed to get all of the electrical systems checked out despite the windy conditions. The time spent now will hopefully mean fewer things to check on launch day.

More Bad Weather

January 01, 2003 12:13 (NZ)

Today has been windy and overcast, and the weather is expected to remain bad tomorrow. We are refilling the liquid helium tonight, cycling the helium-3 fridge tomorrow, and will be ready to fly as early as midnight tomorrow. Experience has told us that it is difficult down here to predict the weather (and it's a coastal region with mountains, etc, and strongly localized weather patterns). Many of us took the afternoon off, and the waiting game continues...

Snow Delay

December 31, 2002 10:39 (NZ)

Today the wind is calm, but a heavy, wet snow is falling and covering everything. We are on standby and waiting to see what the weather will do. We can be ready to go outside and start the launch process within an hour or so if the weather clears up. Tom and Bill have been re-taping the panels that had to be removed for the liquid helium fill. The flight schedule has been uploaded to the onboard computer. Everyone is tired after a night without much sleep. Now we just have to wait and see what happens with the weather...

Launch Preparations

December 30, 2002 13:31 (NZ)

The ATIC payload has been travelling on a good path so far. It is moving fairly quickly, and travelling nearly due west around the continent. Last night we topped off our liquid helium tank, and today we are pumping out the gas above the liquid. This causes the liquid to cool to 2K. Late tonight or tomorrow we will cycle our helium-3 refrigerator and be ready to launch tomorrow afternoon. The weather forcast is still unknown, but we want to be ready in case we have a launch opportunity. On another note, I updated the links at the top of the page to point to the main NSBF Antarctica website, which has real time maps of all the balloons.

ATIC Launches!

December 29, 2002 19:42 (NZ)

Today the ATIC experiment was launched, which means that Boomerang is on deck. We are currently scheduled for a launch attempt on Tuesday afternoon, but of course that can change quickly... It finally feels like things are happening, and that we might actually be close to getting this thing in the air!

Snow School

December 28, 2002 19:01 (NZ)

The past two days I have spent at snow school, which is a very basic cold weather survival course. We practiced some winter camping skills and built a few different kinds of snow structures. One very fun activity was building a snow mound shelter. We began by placing all of our duffle bags in a pile and covering them with a tarp. Then we shoveled snow onto the tarp until the snow was a few feet thick all around. After letting the snow mound sit for a while (the snow crystals actually bond together over time, making the snow mound stronger), we dug down below the ground level, under the mound, and up into the mound where the bags were. After pulling out the bags and enlarging the interior, we had a spacious and comfortable structure. I spent the night in this snow mound shelter, and it was very quiet and warm. Carrie decided to "rough it" a little more, and dug herself a snow "trench" in which to spend the night. This is simply a ditch big enough for one person in a sleeping bag, and covered with whatever is handy (in Carrie's case, a fiberglass sled). A trench such as this is a sort of last resort shelter that can be made by one person in a short amount of time. We were all amazed at just how warm even a simple snow shelter can be.

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