Friday, February 17, 2012

We *almost* launched!

Wow, Tuesday night was a crazy time, a whirlwind of chaos and activity that resulted in bringing the count down to T -00:34 (34 seconds to launch) before Science aborted the call. There was aurora all night long after that initial close call, although the PI (Steve Powell) ended up calling it "too much aurora". Sigh.

So the night began as I went down to the kitchen to call home and leisurely chat with Matthew on Skype. This is a common practice, since the beginning of the launch window is normally a pretty slow time. But Tuesday it was not. Someone came running in the room to tell me that Steve just picked up the count (which means he called in to start the clock at T -10 minutes), and so I had to slam my laptop closed and do the ridiculous rush to get my stuff together and bolt out the door to the car. I'm supposed to be down the hill at the TM (telemetry) trailer at about 5 minutes to launch to give a GO that our instruments are functioning properly before we launch (or a NO GO if they're not). So I careened down the icy hill in the SUV - - no sweet handbrake slides, alas. Ran into TM just in time to check the charts and give a GO on the ERPA instruments. Then at T -:60 I gave my final okay and ran outside with about half a dozen others to watch the rocket launch. We could see the launch pad all lit up and the rocket pointing upwards, waiting. We counted down in our heads... and nothing. Steve had aborted the launch, due to changing science conditions. But, man, was that adrenaline pumping!

So we recycled the count back up to T -10. The rest of the night saw a lot of other iffy situations where we almost dropped the count once again. I ended up camping out in TM all night long since we were usually on the verge of counting down. Aurora came and went; arcs appeared but then didn't move into the position we wanted, or ended up breaking up too soon. Three substorms (or maybe mini-substorms?) raged overhead at different points in the night. It made for a very pretty show for us here at Poker and the downrange sites, but for science conditions it just wasn't what we wanted. We needed a quiet, stable, stationary arc and just never got one. Steve "Too Much Aurora" Powell had a fun (read: frenzied and suspenseful) night though. After all that adrenaline, I dropped into the best sleep I've had since I arrived here.

Check out the light show we had!

Photo by Craig Heinselman

1 comment:

  1. That is crazy! I didn't know it had gotten so close!