Tuesday, June 13, 2006
The launch and climb out were very good. The balloon ascended pretty much like our preflight computer models told us it would for that time of day. We reached float altitude and pressurized as predicted. Unfortunately, the balloon's shape was not right so we could not go out over the ocean with it. We did a shortened version of our test plan. Even though the shape was not perfect, the balloon performed VERY well. If we did not have cameras looking up at the balloon, we would not have had any indication that it was not a perfect balloon. It went through all pressurization steps very well and even exceeded the maximum design pressure with no problem. After termination, we watched the parachute come down and surveyed the landscape below with the onboard cameras.
After working since 8:30, the previous night, we found out that the helicopter to the payload was not going to be available the next day so we had to go out that afternoon. Eventhough I was bone tired, I still enjoyed my first helicopter ride. We saw several moose and a couple of very large herds of reindeer. The landscape is so beautiful and sparcely populated. I imagine it is very much like Alaska.
The payload was in pretty good shape.
After removing and securing the loose items such as solar panels and antennas, the helicopter took it away to the waiting truck 10 miles away.
We had about a half hour to relax and look around. We were out in the higher elevations, so the trees were smaller and the vegetation was more tundra-like on the ground. All the rocks wer covered with moss and lichens. Since it is early spring here, small flowers are starting to pop up.
The ground is 100% covered with some sort of vegetation. It looks like there must be 50 different types of plants in a square yard of ground. I've never seen anything like it.
After our little break, we climbed back into the helicopter. During the twenty minute ride (my second ever in a helicopter) over this beautiful landscape . . . I fell asleep.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Now add rocky, snow covered mountains . . .
With LOTS of waterfalls . . .
It is early spring here and the massive amount of snow on the mountains is melting and pouring down the sides of the mountains. Any one of these waterfalls would have a state park built around it in the States and there was one around every corner here.
Take all this beauty and put it in a sea side setting . . .
. . . and you have the Fjords of Norway.
We drove to the town of Lodingen and took a one hour ferry down to Bognes and had a nice lunch on the ferry. We then took a 25 minute ferry across to Skarberget. After dinner in Narvik, we headed back to Esrange.
Here I am on the Ferry.
The weather was a little gloomy, but if the weather is nice, we should be out launching, so we just have to take what we get. On the way to Narvik, we came across this really beautiful view.
I'd love to come back here and do some hiking when the weather is better. I'm guessing I'll never get a chance to come here on a vacation. I've never been anywhere that is so expensive - even New York City. Our dinner at a pizza place in Narvik for four people was about $80. The same meal at home would have been $25 at the most. This was in a small city in rural Norway. I can't imagine what it costs to eat out in a city like Stockholm.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
We are still out here on the hang test. Right about midnight, the sun peeked below the clouds and I got my midnight sun photo. In this photo, the sun is due north of me and at its lowest point in the sky during the day. Instead of rising in the east and setting in the west, the sun makes a big tilted circle in the sky. The sun is highest in the sky at noon and is directly south of us and at about 45° above the horizon.
That takes some getting used to. Another strange thing is how cold it is. When we were launching the Aesop balloon on Friday morning, I thought I was going to freeze to death! It was in the 30's. I don't think I will complain about the heat this summer when I get home.
We ate at a Chinese restauraunt in Kiruna last night. We could have had the exact same meal in Sulphur Springs except no fortune cookies. I'd love to know what Chinese food in China is like.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Here is a photo of the inflated balloon just before launch. The Esrange telemetry station is up on the hill in the background.You can track the progress of the flight
The washing machine was a sleek modern thing with a lot of buttons on the front. It used very little water and tumbled the clothes to wash them. I think I have seen this type in appliance stores. The way cool thing was the spin cycle. It literally got up to 1200 rpm! It sounded like a jet engine spooling up! If one of those things came apart during the spin cycle, it could kill someone . . . in the next building! Look at this thing go!
Mind you, this washer was full of clothes. They are all about 1 mm thick in this picture.
Drying was also another adventure. Take a look at this control panel.
The "lucka" button turned out to be "lucky" for me since the door unlocked to reveal . . . dry clothes. I pushed the right button to start the thing. I was really afraid I had pushed the pantyhose button or something and all my clothes would be drip dry. So after the adventures in guessing at the meanings of Swedish words, I carried my load of laundry up to the room and tucked in away in my Ikea wardrobe. Just another chapter in the exciting adventures of Stratodude!
Monday, May 29, 2006
Do I look a little tired in this photo. It was taken at midnight on the 29th of May. I was also pretty cold. The temperature was in the 40's and the wind was blowing about 20 mph up on the top of the hill. If the clouds had not been in the way, the sun would have been visible off my left shoulder. Maybe we will have another clear night and get a real midnight sun photo.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Friday, May 26, 2006
We had Reindeer stroganoff for supper tonight. It was pretty tasty. There was a lot of "I wonder who it is, Dasher, Dancer . . .?"
The clouds seem to be breaking, and we are going to try for a launch in the morning. This is the science group that is ahead of us. We will be next when we are flight ready. The pace getting the electronics installed has been pretty relaxed since we have one group ahead of us. I hope we will be flight ready soon. I'm including a photo of the building where we are working and of a sounding balloon launch this morning. Not much else to report. I have been working on check lists and doing what I can to be as ready as possible when the electronics guys are ready for me.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
This is a strange business I'm in. I've gone from cold winter in Texas down to hot summer in Australia in one day. Now I've gone from hot in Texas up to Cold summer in Sweden in one day. It's the end of May and it snowed for about three hours this morning. The temperature was in the upper thirties, so it did not accumulate. We have better weather for the weekend forecast so maybe I'll get to see the sun as it travels in a big low circle around the horizon. That will be interesting.
The balloon preparations are going well and we will begin installing the electronics in the balloon tomorrow morning.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
It is strange seeing the sky the same brightness 24 hours a day. It has been overcast since I got here, so I have not seen the sun yet. I woke up about 3 a.m. and saw the sun shining from behind the blinds - strange. In the walk to the building we are working in, I saw that there is hardly any grass growing in the area, just moss and lichens. The pine trees resemble the ones you see in the mountains, but they are all small - no more than 8" in diameter.
The dorm is brand new. We each have a privat room and bath. The rooms are pretty small, but it's all I need. We have high speed internet also. Just what you would expect from some place that houses scientists.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The trip to Stockholm was bearable – barely. The flight from DFW to O’Hare featured a very talented young lady a couple of rows ahead of me. She could produce a scream that sounded remarkably like a police whistle. She must have thought it was entertaining to her fellow passengers because she demonstrated it for us on very short intervals almost the entire way in to O’Hare. Ahh the joys of air travel. I also have noticed lately that the airlines have optimized their schedules so that there is no such thing as an unoccupied seat. Since my tickets required a day-of-travel seat assignment, I had the added pleasure of sitting in a middle seat the entire way.
Check in for the flight to Stockholm was not a problem. O’hare had a nice train to travel between terminals. It is always a million miles from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. The flight to Stockholm was about eight hours. Once again a middle seat on a totally full flight. This one featured another crying baby and a guy in my row who sneezed loudly every ten seconds for what I know was a half hour during the flight. The food was fine. We had a ham and cheese sandwich with breakfast. Must be a Swedish thing. Immigration in Stockholm was a breeze and customs was nonexistent. As usual, it was a major hike to the domestic terminal.
The flight to Kiruna was less than 1 ½ hours. It is jacket weather here: about 50° F. The remnants of the 6” snowfall from last week are still in the shady areas. The landscape is a combination of tundra and mountain forest. I have not taken any photos yet, but I’ll post them when I do.