fredag 30 januari 2009

Start of rocket campaign in Alaska

I have now spent 5 days in Alaska, and decided it was time to fall for the temptation, do like everyone else, and go and get myself a blog! So here it is! This blog is meant to describe my happenings during my 2-month stay in Alaska, to participate in the launch of the Cascades-2 rocket!
The first days have been fairly hectic, with all preparations that are needed. My biggest concern has been to find warm enough clothes for going to Toolik Lake, since I heard yesterday that it has been -63 deg C (-80F) there recently! But today I finally managed to arrange 'bunny boots' for me and Tobbe, so at least our feet should survive! I've spent most of these days at Poker Flat, where they don't only have a rocket range, they also have enormous moose running around! This one below just passed our way as we were driving, not minding us at all!

Two nights ago me and Meghan decided to stay at the range in the evening, to follow the launch window of the ACES rocket. And we were so lucky that we managed to be there exactly on the night they decided to launch the rocket! This was my first rocket launch ever, and we were standing outside on a platform, watching the two rockets lightening up the whole valley as they took off! Completely amazing! It was also a great experience to follow the countdown and the tension in the control room when the decision to actually launch was being made! Here's a picture of the rocket, sitting inside a box on the rail, waiting for some action:

There was some really amazing aurora in the evening too, that they launched the rocket into. I took this picture just a few hours before the rocket went.

You can even see the top red border of the aurora! Spectacular! I didn't manage to get a good picture of the rocket launch, I was too busy just enjoying the excitement, but Craig Heinselman took this stunning photo of it:

So far I'm fully enjoying my stay here. This week has been busy working on the SMILE magnetometer in the assembly hangar at the rocket range, but next week I'll be twice as busy preparing all the optical equipment to bring to Toolik, in the lab at UAF. And hopefully I'll be able to see a bit more of Fairbanks then, I still haven't been down town.