Weekend of Preparation

This weekend the research group got together to work on the plane that will carry us in Antarctica. This was a unique opportunity for us since normally we don’t see the plane until arriving. I say normally, but this is my first time to work in this capacity.

What usually happens is the team packages up all the equipment and ships it down there. This way works okay, but often things are missing or need to be adjusted. And by adjusted I don’t mean tightened or moved; I mean cut and welded… But this year is different. The plane we will be flying on (a DC3) was being constructed on Wisconsin and will fly down to Chile and then McMurdo Station down on the ice. But they had to pass through Austin. So this allowed us to install all of our equipment and test it before going down there insuring things are already adjusted properly and that they work. No guessing or hoping required. And best of all it was in Austin at approx 80 degrees vs. Antarctica well below freezing. No working outside in the cold!

So all day I helped construct racks to install our survey components. I did a lot of metal cutting and lifting. These things aren’t light. Unfortunately we didn’t have access to a machine shop, so most of our cuts or holes were done by eye, but after all was said and done it came together.

So how about some pictures?

(Finally I got my website working again to upload photos – well, I created another, but you can’t tell the difference from here)

The plane is painted in red and white for safety. If something happens and it lands unexpectedly the red top is very useful for finding the plane from above. Usually a little more would be better, but it still looks pretty cool.

The logo has some pretty cool flags plus ICECAP which is the project we’re doing. IPY is for the International Polar Year – a year where many countries invest extra money into understanding the poles. I think it goes on an 11 year cycle. So I came in at a good time although I feel this project would happen even if it wasn’t a special year.

The plane being loaded

The plane was so cool I stopped to take a lot of photos

I took a lot more, and you can see them by clicking this link

Just a few more as the plane took off at sunset.

High School Reunion

So I’m back.   I’d heard of other people’s reunions and expected mine to be the same, but it couldn’t have been more different.

We were real casual. I wore blue jeans and a buttonup shirt. Almost every other guy did the same. Just a couple people wore slacks. Some girls wore dresses, and they knew they looked good. Wow, I didn’t even remember them! Many people had kids and spouses; there was one obvious boob job and one druggie (and the only remaining a*****e), and about half the people were much heavier than I remember.

We went to the football game on Friday night after a happy hour at a local bbq house. The food and drinks were alright, and the football team lost like the old days (that was the one memory we all shared). Afterward we went back to friend’s houses and talked/drank for hours. Most of us had moved away, but some people still had parents that lived in town. Of the people who stayed most were the ones with kids. They worked jobs that you’ll find in a small town: truck driver, policeman, and the likes.

There was only one red corvette. Most everyone showed up in their dirty pickup, just like me. Overall I got the impression that the attendees were more curious about everyone else than trying to impress people. Afterall why try to impress strangers? Cause in 10 years we’ve forgotten most of what we knew about each other and have no plans to see them again for that long.

Like everyone else notices we broke up into cliques, but that only makes sense. Your friends from those years ago are the ones you want to talk to anyway. I tried to talk to everyone, and there were over 100 people that came. Very few people went to graduate school. Myself included 3 of us had Masters degrees, and there was one dentist. Only a couple have traveled outside of Texas, and more weren’t even interested in where I’d been.

Funnily, I found some people really wanted to talk about themselves. There were a couple guys that could tell their whole 10 year story during a cigarette break, and others you couldn’t much out of at all. I tried to answer the questions that were asked of me and offered a little extra when there was a silence. For the most part though we were all smiling happy kids again, if only for a couple of days.

I’m glad I went just for the sake of knowing and not feeling like I missed it. There are even two or three people I plan to get in touch with after this weekend.

I thought about posting pictures, but who wants to see people I went to high school with?

Martian Conference in D.C.

So I went out to D.C. last week for a couple days. It was for a conference about Mars, and my adviser thought it would be good for me to go. Turns out it was great. I’ve been reading a lot of scientific papers lately, and during the conference I was able to meet the same people that wrote those papers. It was awesome. And best of all I had some ideas for my own research. I’d been reading hoping to figure something out, and after talking to these people I came up with something interesting. Now I just have to get the data. And I can do that through my adviser since he has the ability to direct the satellite that’s orbiting Mars right now!

So I took my camera, but the battery was nearly dead. Thankfully I was able to get a couple off before it died. I wanted better of the capitol building, but alas. The ones with flags were taken below the Washington Monument. I was pretty happy they turned out so well.

Oh, and something that put the cherry on top was that the conference was based in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. During the breaks I’d go up and walk through SkyLab or over to the Lunar Module and pretend I was standing there with Buzz and Niel. Unfortunately there are no photos of that, but I do have one of an astronaut that was in the conference room with us.

Click for bigger pictures.