Gentle reader, if you have been following the previous exploits of this humble chronicler, we might understand if you object, saying: "M R Squared? What's the point? Haven't you done this already? I mean, it's not even in Swedish!"
To this, we respond: "Earmmmmm..... earmmmm...... well, yes, but we haven't done this exactly. Not exactly... See, the NSBF is now the CSBF, so we've done all this with NSBF, but who knows how it will all work out with the CSBF, if you see what we mean."
[ bottom | newest first | panoramas | See also: Gaelen's photos ]
Thu 2006-07-06 01:47:21 UTC
Wednesday night here in Palestine. I left Toronto with Enzo and his wife, Catia this morning. The goal: get to the CSBF base before they close so we can get our access badges and be ready when the truck containing BLAST shows up tomorrow.
Pearson airport was packed when I arrived, but I made it through all the lines without incident. On the way to the departure gate, I did my part to slow down the lines by having a pleasant chat with the INS agent, who had been a prison guard here in Palestine for a while. After landing in Dallas-Fort Worth, we picked up our car, ate some lunch and headed out on the road. The trip was uneventful, save for intermittent deluges, mostly around Corsicana. We got to the base around 15:45, but ran into a slight snag in our plan: the base was closed for the day. (What's the Boxing Day analogue for Independence Day?) Well, oops, I guess we should have checked ahead of time. Instead we went to WalMart, where we did what we do whenever we go to WalMart here: bought all the thermal blankets they had available. Tomorrow Gaelen, Marie, Chris and Nick should be showing up, not to mention Barth and Co. Enzo and I will get everything ready tomorrow morning.
Fri 2006-07-07 06:02:24 UTC
It's Thursday night. I went downstairs for breakfast around 8:30 this morning and managed to walk by every single Netterfield (that's five (including Barth (my supervisor))) without noticing any of them, until Barth said hello. I guess that's what happens when your supervisor leaves on sabbatical for a year: you sort of forget what he looks like. Or you forget that you have a supervisor. Or something...
Whatever the case, the Netterfields had arrived late last night, Barth being unable to drive slower due to the anticipation of what he loves to do, integrate balloon gondolas. We hadn't expected to see them until later today. They had stayed the night at the hotel and were going to go over to a ranch on which they were planning to reside during their time here later in the day. Enzo, Catia, Barth and I headed over to the base, which was now open, were registered and then reacquainted ourselves with the personnel at the base.
After that we headed over to the staging building, where we were to set up. This was the same building we were in the last time we were here, but now we were on the other (that is the west) side of the building. In our old eastern bay was a CMB experiment called ARCADE, which plans to launch for a short flight sometime in the next few weeks. Hopefully we will be able to see it go up. During the day we met various members of the ARCADE team, and were given a very interesting tour of their telescope.
My first job of the day was to find the number of the trucking company and call them, to get an idea of when the truck might be arriving. Literally as I sat down to figure out where I might have stored that number, the truck appeared, which made my job somewhat easier. Several of the riggers showed up and had the truck quickly unloaded for us. Naturally, once we had everything in the highbay we decided we wanted everything which was sitting at the north end of the room (the cryostat and its paraphernalia) to be at the south end of the bay, while everything at the south end of the bay (the gondola and its paraphernalia) to be at the north end of the bay. So most of the morning was spent shifting things around. After lunch we started unpacking and got a few important things up and running, including a sufficient number of computers for us to be able to work efficiently. Enzo extracted the PV and the ACS and starting doing a checkout of them to get them ready to run, while I unloaded some of the rolling carts and set up the telemetry nook. Around supper I discovered that our data acquisition computer, Arwen, did not boot and after dinner, we reprogrammed its BIOS chip, which fixed the problem.
I managed to get in touch with Nick late in the day, who informed me that the gang would get here in the evening. Tomorrow, with their help, we plan to finish the unpacking the lab and also cold test the ACS. With luck we'll also be able to mount the inner frame.
Sat 2006-07-08 06:20:16 UTC
Friday night. With the arrival of Gaelen, Marie, Nick and Danica, the BLAST contingent was up to eight. Three primary goals were in the morning: unpack the lab, Bemco (thermal test) the ACS and re-shim the inner frame. The new arrivals took charge of the unpacking, leaving Barth and I to prepare for the Bemco run. Enzo spent some time reassembling the ACS which I continued to search for bits and pieces we needed to run the ACS in the Bemco. Barth made a few useful temporary cables for the run. Naturally all this took longer than we had hoped, and we didn't head over to the Bemco in the LDB building with the ACS until 2:30. After another two hours of debugging the system to get it to work properly, we finally started the Bemco testing, with the help of Chris Field, one of the LDB guys. Meanwhile Enzo and Gaelen measured the deformation of the inner frame, in order to get the new top-hat shims mounted. The cryostat was also opened up to remove the shipping legs from the optics box and replace the capillary.
In the evening, while we were still Bemcoing, Chris Field informed us that TRACER was about to be launched at Esrange in Sweden. Chris let us into the new Operations Control Center (OCC) to watch the launch.
Sun 2006-07-09 04:55:10 UTC
Saturday night. The inner frame was drilled and mounted today. I worked a bit with Marie to get the integrating star camera working, after it failed just before shipping in Toronto. We also watched the third place World Cup match. During this, I disassembled my keyboard to fix the space bar. After the game I worked a bit to try and get ecosmo working for the imminent cryo run. Just before dinner Matt arrived. He fixed the capillary, and then we went to dinner. In the evening we headed back to the hotel for a bit of relaxation in the pool.
Mon 2006-07-10 05:10:25 UTC
Sunday night. Most of the electronics were mounted on the gondola today, and we were able to bootstrap the flight computers for the first time. I also started routing the non-flight telemetry cables from the gondola towards the telemetry nook. In cryo corner, the cryostat was leak checked and prepared for closing. Work was stopped around noon to take in World Cup final. Enzo managed to get re-acquainted with an Italian he had met on his previous stints in Palestine. Through him, we were invited to a World Cup party at the Wells Creek Saloon in town. Hosting the party was Andrew Gregory, General Manager of the Ben E. King (Anhauser-Busch) Brewery in town. The result: free Budweiser during the game.
After an enjoyable time watching the final, we headed to WalMart to pick up a few things, including a cheap computer to replace ecosmo, which is behaving oddly, we headed back to the base. Matt and I spent the next few hours setting up the new computer, with the hope of confirming that the detectors and associated cryostat housekeeping were working, before closing up the cryostat. Unfortunately, issues with the BLASTbus Controller card prevented us from finishing this, and we left for the night somewhat disappointed.
Tue 2006-07-11 03:48:44 UTC
It's Monday evening. I spent almost the entire day (nine hours) routing five telemetry cables about ten metres from the gondola to the telemetry nook. Around me, others were significantly more productive. Matt spearheaded work on the cryostat, getting it closed up and on the pump. This was delayed for a bit while Enzo tried to figure out what was wrong with the BLASTBus card. Nick worked on the cryostat mounting hardware for the inner frame, and then Marie and Jerry balanced the inner frame. Danica and Gaelen started repairing the solar arrays which suffered damage during shipping back from northern Canada after our last flight. In the evening we had our first barbecue on the base.
Wed 2006-07-12 23:18:52 UTC
It's Wednesday afternoon, and we're in the middle of another all-day Bemco run. Barth and I have been here testing the ACS and the DAS, and Chris has been running the secondary mirror actuator system. Over in the highbay, we've started filling the cryostat with nitrogen and Marie has been monitoring the change in the optics box's position as it cools down.
Yesterday, a retroreflector was placed on the front of the optics box, the filters removed from the shields and the cryostat closed up, giving us an unobstructed view of the optics box, and letting us know how misaligned it might be. I spent a bit of time fixing a bad cable in the biphase. We finished mounting the gondola electronics and in the evening I did a checkout of the pointing system and got it working with a few minor problems along the way. Later in the evening, Enzo and I worked with Ed, who is in Vancouver, to do some star camera tests looking out the door. We got home rather late (around two), and decided to sleep in an extra hour as a result. In the morning we went to the bakery downtown for something to eat, since we missed breakfast by sleeping in.
Sat 2006-07-15 03:47:05 UTC
It's Friday night. I spent Thursday with Barth and the Bemco, trying to figure out why the DAS ADC cards were failing. In the highbay, the cryostat was warmed up. Gaelen and Danica started testing the solar arrays. In the afternoon we finally ate my pie. On Friday I decided to direct my efforts elsewhere and started to work with Chis on the actuator system and the lock motor. Marie got the balance system working. Barth, Nick, Josh and I took an hour in the afternoon to hear Ray Sanders, the turkey baster player in concert at the Palestine Public Library. In the evening we took a swim in the hotel pool.
Sun 2006-07-16 18:51:30 UTC
Noon, Sunday. We opted to sleep in today, and I further opted to sleep in even longer than the others. On Saturday, Danica and Jerry flew back. Matt drove them to Houston, and Gaelen accompanied them. The plan was for Matt to pick up Greg in the evening when he arrived, but his flight was delayed, so Greg is coming today. Marie and Chris spent Saturday battling with the cryostat capillary, with little success. I spent most of Saturday modifying the ACS to accommodate the new magnetometer and the lock motor/actuators system.
Mon 2006-07-17 04:45:32 UTC
It's Sunday evening. We're watching The Big Lebowski in the Party Room (aka Matt's Room). Marie, Matt and Chris worked hard today on the cryostat, and eventually decided that the capillary was not the real problem. Rather, there appears to be a leak in the pumped pot, which is a "donut" which surrounds the helium-3 fridge itself. We plan to solder it tomorrow. I remounted the ACS and worked a bit on the PV which was showing some irregularities. Gaelen started replacing solar cells solo (since Danica ditched us). In the evening we decided to buy some food at the grocery store and went back to the hotel to take it easy after the frustrations of the day.
Tue 2006-07-18 05:20:06 UTC
It's Monday night. We're doing star camera tests again, although it's a bit easier now that Ed has arrived. As decided yesterday, today was the day for re-soldering the pumped pot. Enzo worked on getting the flight computers up and running again. We welcomed Greg, who came in late last night, to the lab, as well as Ed, who arrived just before dinner. For lunch we went downtown to the Old Magnolia Sandwich Shop, and had a pleasant meal in a new location. Just before dinner we closed up the cryostat again. Musical theme for the day: quintessential 80s.
Tue 2006-07-18 21:18:32 UTC
It's Tuesday afternoon. We met Steve and Marco in the morning when we (the latecomers who had been up doing star camera tests until 1:30 last night) collected in the morning. They had arrived late last night. The good news for the day is that the repairs made to the pumped pot yesterday have passed their first test: a warm leak-check. The next step will be to cool down and see if the seal holds. Enzo is planning to orthogonalise the gyroscopes. Barth has been working on the getting the bias card readout to work after making changes to the DAS. I spent some time fixing bugs in the groundstation code and now am working on the lock motor. Gaelen has deputed Marco to help with the next round of solar array tests. Musical theme for the day: 1990.
Thu 2006-07-20 04:51:00 UTC
It's Wednesday night, and we've just aborted another round of star camera tests due to clouds. Today the magnetometer was mounted and integrated. I got the lock motor working. The cryostat continues to cool down. Chris made some modifications to the DAS (data acquisition system) to read out the position of the secondary mirror. Musical theme for the day: 1991.
Fri 2006-07-21 14:59:27 UTC
It's Friday morning. Thrusday was another slow day. I spent a fair bit of time replacing the hard drive in one of the flight computers, which was showing signs of flakiness. Barth and Enzo put the DAS in the Bemco once again, but fortunately it finally passed our tests and should now be fine for flight. In the other bay, our neighbours ARCADE had a hang test yesterday and will try for a launch this evening. Musical theme for the day: Pink Zeppelin.
Sat 2006-07-22 15:58:58 UTC
It's a rainy Saturday morning. Most of us have been cleaning the lab, to make some room for the sun shield assembly. Yesterday was ARCADE's launch day, which went off without a hitch. The ARCADEans were here all night tracking the payload, until they terminated early in the morning. It looks like their flight was quite successful. Other than that, things were relatively quiet here, except in cryo corner where we started filling with helium. We still have no evidence that the leak is still present. In the evening Barth, Ed, Enzo and I did more star camera tests.
Mon 2006-07-24 14:13:37 UTC
It's Monday morning. On Saturday Gaelen led a team to assemble to back and sides of the sun shield frame and this was mounted on the gondola. In order to make enough room for the sun shield assembly, a fairly thorough lab clean up had to be done first. Since Saturday was Ed's last day here, we went to the Ranch House downtown so he could have an authentic Texas steak before he left. Sunday was a Barth-mandated day off. Most of the day was spent on individual pursuits. Gaelen and Marco drove to Dallas to check out some museums. The rest of use met for dinner and then went to the movie theatre to take in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Tue 2006-07-25 16:05:12 UTC
It's Tuesday morning. Matt left earlier this morning to fly back to Providence for a few days. Steve is also leaving today, after having finished his Bemco run of the Spider star camera, which he is working on.
Also on Monday, Gaelen lead a team to finish mounting the sun shields: the chin and wings. Enzo and Matt did a beam map of the cryostat. I built an override box for the flight computers' watchdog circuit, something that was spec'ed when the watchdog circuit was first designed in 2004, but never made. In the evening I worked the kinks out of the lock motor code, and then Barth and I tried doing some more star camera tests, until unrelated issues with the flight computers made us call it quits for the night.
Wed 2006-07-26 03:04:12 UTC
It's Tuesday night. Barth, Enzo and I are doing more scan tests with the star cameras. The crown was put on the gondola today and the SIP was installed, but not yet integrated. Chris took off to Dallas with Steve to get him to his flight back to Toronto. In the afternoon I went into town to get the jitney's tyre plugged, which had been leaking for several days. At the same time I went downtown an got measured for a suit. Chris returned for dinner, and Marie's husband, Adam also arrived in time to eat with us.
Fri 2006-07-28 01:49:18 UTC
It's Thursday evening. Matt returned this afternoon, as well did the ARCADE gondola. I've spent most of the past two days working with Chris to get the secondary actuators working. Additionally, I rescued our groundstation computer, lambda from the Operations Control Centre (OCC), where it had been stored in a corner since our last flight. Barth and Nick have been working on mounting the batteries. The sun shields were removed from the gondola yesterday and today Gaelen and Marie started making the sun shield panels.
Sat 2006-07-29 15:29:43 UTC
It's Saturday morning and we're preparing to mount the cryostat on the gondola. Gaelen, Marie, Chris and Matt spent most of Friday making sun shield panels out of aluminised mylar and blue foam. I worked worked with Enzo and Chris Field a bit to integrate the SIP, and I also did a bit of flight code programming for the actuator system, despite Chris having sent two of the LVDT sensors back for replacement. Barth and Nick mounted the flight batteries. Luca, who arrived late Thursday night, was here in the morning and started working with Enzo on optical alignment tests.
Sat 2006-07-29 23:51:19 UTC
It's early Saturday evening. Barth has left for the night. We've mounted the cryostat (and by we I mean people who aren't me). After mounting the DAS and receiver crates on the gondola, Matt had the unpleasant task of remaking the DAS/Reciever On-Off command cable, which seems to have disappeared. I've spent the day finishing up the GSE (Ground Station Equipment) computer, which will stay here when we go down to the ice, as well as a bit of other systems administration. The sun shield panel makers finished up and are now disassembling them in order to put the sun shields back on the gondola. We hope to be able to do a hang test early next week.
Tue 2006-08-01 04:02:09 UTC
It's Monday night. Sunday was another day off. A bunch of us met for lunch around one and then in the evening we ordered some pizza and watched a movie. Adam left early this morning, much to Marie's disappointment. We've been working all day at getting the gondola put together. The sun shields are back on and the inner frame has been rebalanced. We've also finished integrating CSBF's electronics with our system. We're hoping to do a hang test and compatibility sometime this week.
Wed 2006-08-02 03:38:37 UTC
It's Tuesday night. We've had a long day. In the morning we assembled the solar arrays an put them up on the gondola. When that was done, Tiny Tim came by and carried us out to the parking lot where we tested the solar arrays, the GPS, and the Sun Sensor, with good results.
Fri 2006-08-04 04:01:51 UTC
It's late Thursday night. We've had another long day. Wednesday was a bit of a day off after the business of Tuesday. SBI did their hang test and compatibility, which meant that many of the CSBF support personnel were busy with SBI. We spent Wednesday day doing our final button up of the gondola in preparation for our hang test today. Mark Devlin also arrived Wednesday, in anticipation of the primary mirror's arrival Thursday afternoon.
Thursday started early: on the advice of Chris Field (our LDB support guy) we started the hang test at 6 am (so we were in the highbay at 5:30). This was an attempt to beat the heat of day. We were picked up around six and headed out to the parking lot like two days ago for the hang test and compatibility. The goal here is to pass compatibility, which means we and the CSBF guys have to run through all our systems and verify that they run as expected. We test TDRSS and Iridium satellite commanding, data transfer to and from the gondola, that is all the gondola communications. As part of this I installed our groundstation computer (lambda) in the Operations Control Centre (OCC) where it will wait until we need it when BLAST flies from McMurdo. Compatibility was done by noon and Tim brought us back inside. We immediately started pulling the gondola apart, removing the solar arrays and sun shields, which we won't need again until we fly. In the afternoon the mirror arrived and we started preparing for mounting it, removing the cryostat from the gondola. Nick had driven with one of the CSBF riggers to Dallas to pick it up. We'll mount it tomorrow.
Sat 2006-08-05 22:56:38 UTC
It's early Saturday evening. The mirror was mounted Friday morning and most of the day was spent aligning the secondary. In the evening we did some telescope alignment tests by attempting to look at the moon with the primary and secondary and get an image on a digital camera. Eventually the moon moved too far to the west and we had to call it a night. At the end of this process we encountered some strangeness in the pointing solution and Barth and I stayed here until 3 in the morning resolving that issue. Right now we're setting things up again to do another round of moon tests.
Mon 2006-08-07 21:13:51 UTC
It's Monday afternoon, we're setting up to do a near field beam map. The moon tests Saturday night were largely hampered by clouds. Yesterday we mounted the cryostat and spent a fair bit of the day aligning it. We had a barbecue in the evening and then took off early for a bit of relaxation. This morning we woke to heavy rain, which worried us that we wouldn't be able to see anything out the door with the telescope. However, the rain has stopped and we're setting up to do a beam test.
Wed 2006-08-09 08:40:27 UTC
It's 4:00am Wednesday morning. We've spent the last two days doing submillimetre beam maps of the telescope optics. We set up a liquid nitrogen cooled source for the detectors to look across the parking lot in the LDB highbay and have been doing beam tests with it until late into the night. Yesterday most of us left between four and five in the morning, except me who stayed a bit later to run one last beam map. Tonight I've stayed a bit longer again to work on a bit of extra code.
Fri 2006-08-11 07:13:45 UTC
It's late Thursday night. Barth, Enzo and I have just finished one last round of star camera tests. Because the sun is always up in McMurdo, there won't be an opportunity to test them there, so we have to make sure all our pointing tests are done before we pack up.
Yesterday we finished our third long day of beam maps and focus tests. The results are very good: we appear to be able to focus the telescope and understand why we have to place the secondary mirror at the position in which we found it to be in focus. After reaching this conclusion the cryostat was emptied of cryogens and we've started dismantling the telescope and begun packing for shipment to the ice.
Sun 2006-08-13 05:42:11 UTC
It's Saturday night. Packing has started and it looks like the end of the campaign is finally in sight. I've been spending most of my time the past few days working on integrating the secondary actuators. Around me, most of the rest of us are busy packing things up. On Friday we had a bit of recreation when Chris Field, our LDB support guy, took a bunch of us out for a bit of shooting. Luca, Mark and Marie also left late Saturday night. Barth spent the evening doing one last error-free evening of pointing tests, our last with the star cameras before we launch.
Tue 2006-08-15 02:03:39 UTC
It's Monday night. We've finished packing everything in boxes and then packing the boxes in the rolling carts. Tomorrow we'll pack the rolling carts into shipping crates, which is the last thing we need to do. Enzo's leaving tonight; the rest of us will leave Wednesday.
Sat 2006-08-26 23:28:28 UTC
We're back in Toronto, after leaving BLAST behind in Palestine to be shipped down to the ice for us. The heat made packing stuff into the crates unpleasant, and the small amount of room available forced us to pack things very carefully, to optimise the space used. We eventually got it all done, leaving a few left overs that didn't fit for CSBF to pack with their stuff. Hopefully it will all be there when we get to the ice in a couple of months.
Everyone else left was flying back from Houston, and Enzo had taken the jitney back with him when he left, so I got a ride with the Netterfields to Dallas to catch my flight. They, of course, had to drive all the way.
That's all for now. In a few months from now you should, hopefully, hear more from us when we get things going again in Antarctica.