Tuesday, June 13, 2006

ULDB Launch!

After showing at 9:00 p.m. for what we thought was going to be a marginal weather chance, we launched the balloon at 3:23 a.m. local time.

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.

1 comment:

Elaine said...

This is all so very interesting. The photos are amazing! Thanks for sharing with us.
We have just gotten home from the Turks & Caicos Islands and I have not gotten to read your blog in a while. Since you all have launched, how long will you be there for? I am sure you are missing your family, but sounds like they are doing wonderfully from talking w/ Susan and visiting the caringbridge website. Take care and have a safe trip home!