Monday, September 11, 2017

I've put off writing this entry for a full week in an attempt to do it justice. Every time I've opened the page I've decided that I was too tired to use any of my best words, and closed it without even trying.

I think I'm ready now.

Everyone is asking me, "What was it like?" It's hard to explain. I feel like with tUR-1 and tUR-2 that I was very conscious that we were sending up our payload. I felt connected to the physical box in a way that made the experience easier to grasp. Partially that is because of how home grown the experience was, especially for tUR-2 which was a total labor of love, but partially because we knew in a few hours it would fall to Earth and we would try to find it.

HASP was a much more disconnected sensation for me and not just because I was gliding by on two hours of sleep.

Scientific ballooning is almost laughably astonishing. When I tell people about the scale of the balloons and gondola they react with a derivation of, "You're going to what with what?"

 I've watched balloon inflations, and finally a launch, online but I was not prepared for the sight of it on the horizon and I had to focus incredibly hard to not get lost in the awe of it and remember that we had made a small piece of it.

Two big moments happen during every launch that make the crowd gasp.
1. When the balloon is let up to the end of the tether.
2. When the balloon is released.

I was impressed by how smoothly both of these negotiations were conducted compared to the frantic release of our tinier, and much less deadly, tUR-1 payload. I also enjoyed how everyone clapped because it reminded me of everyone applauding the solar eclipse. (I definitely spent much more time staring into the sun at launch than I did for the eclipse.)

After launch we spent the rest of the day watching GOAT cruising along above the Earth and this was even harder to comprehend. 

It doesn't look real, especially on this monitor. Like, it doesn't even look like a very good fake.

Our friends and family were sending screenshots in to Facebook all day and it was wonderful. I hope that Dan D. will post some of his collection. The whole time I was trying to really absorb the fact that we built that thing in my geology lab. We built it. 


People ask, and I don't do a very good job of explaining, what is so fantastic about this experience. What makes it worth it? Was it worth all of the missed social events, sleepless nights, deadlines, headaches, travel forms, and bags of trail mix? Was it worth all of that to go to this desolate place and launch a metal shoebox into the sky for a day?

I think so.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

HASP recovered

HASP has landed safely in the desert. They have recovered and GOAT will be back in Ft. Sumner by tomorrow morning, where they'll pack it up for shipment home to North Carolina. We are en route home ourselves.

Once we get there, we start the science work: data analysis, post-processing, and reporting. Science Team has some chromatography to tend to. We are tired but quietly jubilant. It has been a lovely trip.

(Edit: everyone home safe!)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

It's almost time for HASP pre-flight operations and we're slightly stunned that the moment we've been planning for is upon us.

You might be wondering where we've been and what we've been up to.

1. We participated in the solar eclipse. We went to a charming museum in Wears Valley, TN and lucked out that they had parking galore, flush toilets, a shaded amphitheater and almost two minutes of totality.  We paid $12 to enter the historic village on site and were gloriously free from hoards of people during the eclipse. It was wonderful and totally worth the long drive back.

2. Although Munir has been working on a pump solution, we haven't had much we can do on the payload, so we've been working on other side projects and trying to relax and prepare for another year of NASA projects.

Science team has been scrambling because it's suddenly show time for them!

The rest of us are thinking about the future for our second HASP application. A lot of good ideas are floating around. Pun intended? I don't know, man.

3. The balloon business is weather dependent and the weather has been rough. I have rescheduled our flights, at this point, four times and worry I'll have to finagle a 5th. We had a connecting flight in Houston that was cancelled last night and we were concerned that the weather was going to keep the HASP management team grounded in Louisiana. Luckily the Guze's Crew from LSU has made it to Fort Sumner so that, at least, is in I feel a tiny bit better letting people know our plans as they stand so far.

4. We had a bit of a hiccup earlier this week that seemed like it might ground HASP for the season but the teams conferred and decided unanimously to push ahead with a sub-optimal launch.

So...we're as ready as we're getting!

On Saturday morning Memes, Abandoned, Under Pressure and Morty will arrive in Albuquerque, grab some groceries (cause everything is closed in Fort Sumner on the weekend) and speed to CSBF to add the ogawas and seal up the GOAT. They need to integrate by 5 pm or we don't fly.

Sunday if things are looking good, HASP will be prepared for flight.

Keep an eye on cameras at the

These will hopefully have footage of us and will certainly show the launch. Please take screenshots if you see us.

The rest of the team will arrive in Fort Sumner very, very late on Sunday.

Our first launch opportunity is very, very early on Monday. We will try to post if we hear about a launch window.

If we don't launch by Tuesday afternoon...we'll probably miss seeing it live but I plan on dropping to watch it online when it does happen.

Monday, August 7, 2017

More Photos from Integration

My throne. 

Working on BABI at the Off Site Durham Scientific Ballooning Facility

Dan inspects BABI

Dan with a good looking GOAT

We realized, at the worst possible time, that one of our cables was wired incorrectly and had to rewire it so that we could test our payload.

Excited to actually attempt integration. Finally.

It's the North Cack, baby we're the boss. Carolina BBQ sauce with the slaw.

A very early morning after a very late night.

Kapton tape and a flat head screwdriver...the two items that are the toughest to find when you need them.

Dan and I visiting our friend Rosemary.

After so much time watching CSBF on the computer and so much effort spent trying to earn a trip to visit it, it was surreal to actually BE there.

Munir's photo face <3 

Jimmy giving pump down commands so that our SPEC sensors don't sploosh their guts all over the place. 

SPACE PUP!!! Heart eyes emoji.

A new look for Munir.

HASP and the BEMCO

One of my favorite parts of the trip was this badge. I could use it to get on base after hours and beep open doors.

A hang test in action.

Jimmy putting the finishing touches on GOAT for shipment to Fort Sumner.

Totally knackered student team lead.



Eat at Shep's.

A Jimmy's Eye View

On our way home!