Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The past few days here have given us all a lesson in patience. On Monday (not a holiday in Antarctica), things looked pretty good for a launch in the afternoon. The French team took care of a few final details at their launch site (see the picture below) and waited for the winds, which were calming down (they really need wind speeds below 6 knots (nautical miles per hour) = 7 mph). At about 3 pm, they were within 10 minutes of being ready to inflate the first balloon when they encountered a small problem that forced them to cancel. In the end, this was a good decision, because only 30 minutes later, the winds were howling again and they would almost certainly have destroyed the balloon. Nothing to do but wait...

The balloon launch site, including the two "rac tents" (yellow) where the balloons
are prepared. The airport control tower is not part of the launch facility;
it is just "parked" nearby until the Ice runway is ready.
Still, wouldn't it be cool to have your own control tower??

Since Monday, the winds have been out of limits (averaging about 20 mph, with gusts well over 40 mph) except for a brief period at dinner time yesterday. Today there was so much blowing snow that the launch site was under Condition 1, which means no one can go there. Just as well, as the winds in the stratosphere (where the balloon will end up) would have carried a balloon launched today into darkness within a couple of days. Since the balloon systems are largely powered by solar-recharged batteries, this would have meant a flight of only 4-5 days' duration. So, we wait some more...

And, on the home front, we have learned a lot about patience while waiting for news about the wildfire west of Boulder. Two of our colleagues here own homes in the area and both spent most of yesterday on the internet trying to find out any information they could. We all know other people who live in that area and assume that they have been evacuated and are safe. One colleague here heard from his son that he had gotten to the house and picked up the dog before the fire reached there; the other was waiting to know if his tenants got out safely. The good news today is that everyone is safe; the bad news is that one house was confirmed to be destroyed by fire (the colleague's son actually found pictures of the house on fire on a local TV website). We don't know for certain about the other house... more waiting!

No comments:

Post a Comment