Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Barn!

Luckily enough we have one photo of our rocket launch.

This was taken by Robert Michell who was Kristina's graduate student that worked on Cascades1. In this photo you can see the four motor burns, which did not happen for C1. On that rocket the third stage motor did not light so the entire mission was a failure.

Anyhow, so now I am back home! I got out of Alaska just in time, as Mt Redoubt is now erupting and they are canceling many flights due to the large ash cloud drifting over much of the state. My flight actually left about a half hour early, because we were scheduled to go three hours after the first eruption, and they didn't want to risk us not getting out. So I had a little extra time on my layover in Seattle, but it was still quite short. Three of the NASA dudez were also on that flight out of Fairbanks, but they had 3 hour layovers, so they brought me to my gate and saw me off, which was fun. Usually I am that lone traveller in airports. Also, one of my NASA buddies had the privilege of sitting next to Kevin Barry in first class. I must admit I never would have known who this guy was if I didn't have that inside connection. He was a HUGE guy though. Nice, but HUGE.

My next flight got into Minneapolis a little late, so I got off one plane, booked it through the airport, and got right back on another plane. I guess it was the perfect amount of time, except for that whole not eating thing, but such a short connection makes me very nervous, particularly since I don't want a repeat of my last Minneapolis airport stranding. Luckily enough I made it just fine, as did my luggage. Then I got to ride a completely full Dartmouth Coach home.

I got to Hanover and my car started with no trouble, and Lisa and Laura were home to greet me at the barn with flowers and freshly washed sheets on my bed. All in all it was a great return.

At the barn I am starting to realize I have forgotten a few things. I smacked my elbow on the toilet paper dispenser, so I'm quite convinced someone moved it around or something. Also, the bathroom mirror makes my face look tan (is that even possible??), so I think there is something wrong with the mirror or the lighting. Almost all of the snow is melted around here, and tomorrow the high will be a balmy 47F. Not so bad..

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Finally we launched our rocket! And it seems to be a great success. The whole night seemed to be pretty surreal, and I'd give a play by play of the events leading up to the launch, but I don't think I could accurately portray what was going on. What I can tell you is that our data looks amazing. So far we just have the strip charts with the real time data from the flight, and nothing we can play around with but it really is great stuff. We have data from all five payloads, and four out of five of my detectors worked. The one that didn't work failed because it somehow deployed too early and the high voltage came on when the rocket was still in the atmosphere, so the high voltage board fried. I am just so so happy about the results of this rocket, as is everyone on the team.

It has been almost 24 hours since the launch, and I am just now realizing that I am finally through with this stage of it, and I get to move on with life. I finally get to go home and am so happy about that I could cry.

Life's so good. (apparently the former state slogan of Wisconsin, which, just four days ago, was replaced by "Live like you mean it.")

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Aurora: with photos (finally) from yours truly.

Last night there was a fairly stable arc far to the north. I took my camera out and borrowed Steve's tripod.

These are the photos I was able to get with my little point and shoot camera. Pretty good eh?!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Learning to use my camera, among other things

Today Steve and I had a big shopping adventure, which was great. We even took some time to get coffee from the coffee shop where my card is filed away.

We also stopped in at the Fairbanks Museum which includes the dog mushing museum. I learned a little bit about dog mushing. This sign showed the different ways to harness the dogs.

One of our stops was at a local photography shop. For some reason I picked up the camera that I have and was going to show Steve how I could only choose a mode and add 2 seconds to the exposure time, so I never really knew what the longest exposure time was that I could get. As I was doing this I managed to get it to 15 seconds, which is good enough for bright aurora. I tested out the long exposure, as well as two ISO settings by taking photos of the launch pad from the telemetry building up the hill.

This is with the ISO set to 1600.

And this is with the ISO set to 800.

I don't really know anything about cameras, but I like to pretend to. It is particularly fun to use my point and shoot camera in such ways. The best part was that I borrowed Steve's mini portable tripod and jammed it in a snowbank for stability. Right now we are "in for winds" so if there is good aurora I need to be inside in case we pick up the count, so no more photographer business for the time being.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

More Fairbanks Excitement

For some reason I can't get photos to upload easily, so I'm just starting a new post for the two additional photos I have.

At the Outhouse Races this man came up to me and said, "Did you run in the race today?" I said, "ha are you kidding me? no." He said, "Are you related to anyone who ran?" "ah nooo." "Okay can you tell me which outhouse is the best?" "You mean which one is the prettiest?" "Yeah. Sure. Which outhouse do you think is the prettiest?"

The Prettiest Outhouse. This team won a prize because of me.

On Wednesday I went to the Chena Hot Springs with Hanna, Torbjorn, Anna, Jeff, and Sam. It was a really great trip, and the water was amazingly warm. We were a bit like Snow Monkeys perched on rocks around the water when we got too warm. It was very nice.

This was the one photo I took on the trip. Torbjorn just loves that moose hat. He pretty much looks just like a local wearing that hat.

The March Window

Tonight is the first night of the March launch window. The science conditions are not looking terribly promising and neither is the weather. For the past three nights there has been amazing aurora, but it is pretty much dead by now. Also, it is so windy here that the building is shaking and the water in the toilets is sloshing around a little bit.

I am realizing I haven't put too many photos in my blog lately, so I'm going to try to fix that. These pictures are in no particular order. They are just the ones I like from the past two or three weeks.

This is an ice sculpture at the World Ice Art Championship.

Today on the way to the range we were just in time for Chatanika Days. They have been doing this winter carnival of sorts for many years and apparently thousands of people come out (from where, who knows..) to attend. They have outhouse races, in which people build an outhouse on skis and then race it down the street. The finish line is actually in the parking lot, so it was very amusing when the teams would be running at the crowd of people yelling "turn! turn!" The teams consisted of four people pushing and one person sitting on the seat.

Notice the old man in the center with the cane. He was one of the people riding on the seat. It looks like this guy only moves that quickly once a year, in the outhouse races. He is on his way inside to find his wheelchair.

Here are two of the teams in action.

This is a sock I knitted during the PET conference. I really like knitting. I really like that anything I can draw onto graph paper I can knit onto a sock.

I like this ice art a lot. They are stacked muskox if you can't tell.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My week off

Today marks the seventh week of my stay in Fairbanks.
I went to the little coffee shop downtown and they have a little box at the counter where you can file away your coffee card. I had considered just picking out any random card and earning the person an extra stamp on their card, but today I got my very own card. I filed it away and feel pretty good about that. I'm not sure if it will be more tricky trying to find it on my person or to try to find it in that file of cards.
Also, I recognized one of the old men from contra today when I was at the grocery store.
Perhaps I've been here too long?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Making the Most of Fairbanks

Okay, so here is a quick update of what has been going on here. Our last night of the February launch window was March 4, and we were out for winds the entire night, and were not able to launch into the amazing aurora we were seeing.

Here is a super awesome photo of me in front of some aurora taken by Mike Nicolls. That was not March 4, but the level of amazing was comparable.

So now we have to wait until the March launch window. This does not start until March 15. The main reason we have to have some days in between windows is to avoid the moon. Right now the moon is very bright so we lose all of our ground optics.

I had big plans to take a short vacation in Denver, for the purpose of visiting friends and getting out of Fairbanks. Well that didn't work out so well, because the University of Alaska Fairbanks has spring break this week and every single flight out of this state is oversold and ridiculously expensive.

Now my plan is to just stay in Fairbanks during this break. It works out really conveniently that there is this Plasma Entry and Transport workshop going on next week. So basically I can go listen to some bigshots in my field of study talk about what they do, and that should be really beneficial for me.

Today and yesterday I have spent my time realizing just how introverted I actually am. I have had two days all to myself and I am feeling completely re-energized, which is great. I have this plan to check out the coffee shops in Fairbanks to find the best one for sitting and reading. Usually we just go to a drive through coffee hut, because we didn't have time for the luxury of sitting and reading. Today I went to the Alaska Coffee Roasting Co, and I finally feel at home in Fairbanks. Not only do they sell my favorite coffee (only the beans, they won't brew it for me) but they also make the most delicious vanilla latte. Sidenote: I had been doing really well with just drinking coffee and avoiding fancy specialty coffee beverages, but it seems that Fairbanks does not support that type of behavior. Every single coffee place only makes good espresso beverages and has really horrible brewed coffee. It is strange, but that is how it is.

Also, yesterday I saved $.50 per gallon on gas because of all the groceries we have purchased from the Safeway. I bet you guys are glad I shared that one huh? I heard this statistic that on average, every blog has just one reader. I know that at least my mom and my aunt are reading this, so I am totally beating the odds.

Second to lastly, it snowed maybe ten inches yesterday so Fairbanks is beautiful and snow covered! It is really quite lovely!

And lastly, there is a contra dance tonight, and I am definitely going. Should be fun!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


No launch I'm afraid. We have a week off and then we are back for a March launch window.

The end.