Monday, February 16, 2009

The Farm and Observatory

Yesterday and today have been especially trying. This isolation is a hard thing to bear. Today Hans and I drove into town just to do something. We passed a native girl in front of her house playing with a dog and I sat up and waved wildly at her as she just stared, realizing later how desperate I am for outside human contact. Hans, Jim, Milton and Randy are great, don't get me wrong. But there's a LOT of alone time, believe me.

::sigh::

More pictures? I think that is in order. How about a lovely tour of the little sardine box where I spend my time off and the even smaller one where I spend my working hours.



Here's my little chair in the observatory where I sit all day (or night, depending on the shift). At first, things were more exciting because we had to haul all the equipment up the stairs to this room and then set it all up and troubleshoot and improvise. Now it's all working well, thankfully, but that means nothing for us to do .... but wait. At least the word came down that we were cleared for the mission! There has been some uncertainty this whole time that NASA would close the mission due to an ACS (Attitude Control System) issue that has to do with the ACS on earlier missions failing somewhat. And we're using the same parts. But we got the go ahead yesterday due to the effort of many. The launch window officially opened last night but we were socked in with fog and clouds, as was Toolik (the other site with ground imagers) and the actual launch range outside Fairbanks. So that was more than a few hours of sitting, waiting, calling, and eventually going home. The good news is that my camera is working quite nicely, getting focused (although we need to see stars to focus it completely and the damn clouds won't go away) and even kept up it's performance after being outside and on for a couple hours. Granted, it wasn't that cold yesterday, almost up to zero at times.
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Here is Hans on the other side of the room. Now, keep in mind where the wall was in the last picture, just behind the rack of equipment. This picture was taken from my little chair... that's how gloriously spacious the room is. There are two "closets" with doors also attached but those each hold a large clear dome in the ceiling and all-sky cameras so those remain closed to keep our humid breath from fogging the plastic. And this is where 3 people somehow manage to spend 7 hours or more a day. And if you want to stretch your legs, you can always head outside into the biting wind and freezing temperatures!
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The picturesque drive to the observatory and then the tiny sardine can itself! We are on the upper floor of this structure, you can see the door on the balcony that leads into our little room. The bottom is a huge 2-story open garage with an iron spiral staircase that leads to the room above. They used to deploy balloons here for weather purposes and other things. You can also see the tripod on the left side of the balcony where my camera sits all night. And the cute little wooden ladder that leads to certain death on the roof. I've only been up there once, and the wind wasn't strong. But I certainly felt more than a bit uneasy! There are straps and caribiners inside to wear in case the wind is really bad, so that instead of plummeting to your death, you hang on the side of the building to be slammed by winds and freeze to death. Not sure which option I'd choose.... Honestly, your colleague is always just inside waiting to hear you fall so they can go hoist you up. I'm exaggerating a bit on the danger factor.
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This is our sweet ride, loaned by the overly accommodating base guys. Their bosses decided they didn't want us walking back and forth from the base to the observatory at night with the polar bears around, so we get to use this bad boy!
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Here's "the farm" (as Hans calls it) from the viewpoint of driving back from the observatory. There's a large vehicle maintenance garage on the left end (with some nice heavy machinery I covet) and the rest is a long line of train cars end to end with the big white radar dome on the right.
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Thermal analysis of my room. More pictures from inside "the farm" next time. Stay tuned!

(P.S. I forgot to mention that the septic had been full (no showers in 4 days!) - but the guy finally came to empty it today! Hallelujah for showers!!!)

3 comments:

  1. I smell Cabin fever! .. man your working quarters are a might bit small but at least you dont have to worry about polar bears making it inside your little abode (as they cant make it up the spiral stairs).. but beyond that it seems mighty small.

    Make some snow angles some time ..

    - B -

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  2. Allison, thanks for the neat pictures. Many family and friends are keeping up with you. Try replacing loneliness with solitude. Mom and I send our love and prayers for a good launch and a safe return. Love, Dad

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  3. So the thermal test tells you are colder than the boxes(?) over your head. You are cold-hearted!!

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