Friday, December 15, 2017

HASP RAM application submitted

We submitted the application from the Goddard library because we're fancy. Spacecatspeed us!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Unphotographable Risks

It is so tough to take a photo of everyone wearing team shirts, facing the camera, with open eyes. I think we've only managed it once! We tried again recently for our HASP application. 

We were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves until we realized Memes was in the bathroom.

But then he came back and just sort of blended right into the melee. Please check out THIS holiday greeting card photo.

Just a really dynamic set of emotions from one photo to the next.

3/8 of the team knows their left from their right.

"I thought you said metric left." - Munir

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Dr. Guzik always makes the joke (?) that integration is a good time. It's hard to explain to other people but these projects are always kind of a good time! It's little things like this exchange that make our team special.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The time that Dan Koris' phone read off the definition of despair

"The complete loss or absence of hope."

Meet the new HAB Team!

I'm pleased to announce that we're going to be hosting another HAB team this year. This group is ready to get to work and learn how to launch some space balloons.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


How has it been almost a month since my last post? We've been busy, for sure, always...but wow! Time flies.

We've settled on a project. Say goodbye to GOAT and say hello to RAM.

Robotic Arm Manipulation and Materials Matching (RA(M3)) will require the team to engineer a robotic arm that will be mounted in our payload. This arm will perform simple tasks such as toggling switches, twisting objects, and opening/closing velcro flaps as one might while refueling a satellite on-orbit. We're calling this the Busy Box. Our experiment evaluates the impact of extended use in extreme conditions: traditional lubricants evaporate in low-pressure environments, the experiment will be in direct and uninterrupted sunlight, and heating/cooling must be carefully controlled in the absence of convecting atmosphere. Over the duration of the flight we will measure any degradation in performance, response time, and accuracy. We will also test efficacy of computer-vision, both for autonomy as well as for closed-loop feedback during operation.*

We've had some tURnover on the team. Some of our members have left to focus on other pursuits and gear up for tough academic loads. But we have also added on some new faces who are excited about our new direction. Say hello to Meredith and Laura! (Nicknames pending.)

We're all super excited about robot arms. We all enjoyed parts of GOAT but RAM has really invigorated the team.

We used some of the funds we had leftover from GOAT to buy some off the shelf robot arms. We want to see what's available, get a feel for the different materials, check out how the arms move, and just get a feel for what we like. Ultimately, we want to build our own from scratch.

Unboxing these kits was like Christmas morning and the team spent some time struggling with doling them out slowly and building them together vs just tearing into them and getting them operational. Gleeful construction won out and we ended up attempting to put all of the kits together at this meeting.

Spencer took the smallest arm. (Ironic really.)

The Dans worked on this really slick looking, metallic blue one. 

Noah got the "toy" one which was hilarious because it was the worst to put together, had the most parts, and was probably the least fun of all of them. 

Somehow it became a race! 

Noah's arm isn't finished (we can't blame him) and we didn't have time to power on the other two. Next week's meeting is going to be really fun! We've been working quietly on reports and grant applications for the last few meetings so it's going to be nice to have a raucous robo rodeo.

*This has been pilfered from our abstract so be prepared to see it again.

Monday, September 25, 2017


After a brief break from meetings we have reconvened to get back to work. The science report is in progress and we're planning to start the application for another year of HASP. This week the students have been charged with presenting their ideas for our next project. I was bowled over by how many creative ideas they had and how competitive they were during their presentations. Some of them took the professional attire a bit too seriously.

I am pleased we had so many great presentations! It was a rough week for tUR and it was great to focus on the work that matters to us.

And so many great titles.

Memes proposed that we become hugs for hire. I meant to write "thugs" because that makes sense but I actually wrote "hugs" and I'm going to leave it because it seems more true to our mission.

HDan proposed we send some dino DNA to near space.

Multi-Flexor proposed that we do a battery of tests.

Kieran got deep into theological territory and advocated for the search for Space Cat. 

Abandoned seemed confused about the prompt and performed Hamlet's soliloquy to thunderous applause. 

After the presentations we deliberated and discussed for over an hour. We decided on the top three candidates pretty quickly but then things devolved from there.

We decided to table the discussion in favor of more research this week. The top three ideas will keep refining their projects and sending the group articles and information to read. On Wednesday rebuttals will go out and the team will vote on Friday.

Also, a big shout out to Caramore Community for being our home away from home.

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!)

Monday, September 4, 2017

Successful launch of HASP

We had a beautiful launch at 14:04:25 UTC (08:04:25 local, 10:04 EST) with lovely detachment and gentle ascent. We're getting good data back here as GOAT heads to space. NASA Educational UStream is showing our footage live now.

Balloon is smaller than expected