måndag 16 februari 2009

Helicopter flight over Brooks mountains!

Today was a day off at the rocket range, and so we decided to take some time off too, and do other things than just work (after all, it is Presidents day!).. So what is there to do in Toolik, apart from skiing and enjoying the sauna?
Well, you can always take a ride on the snow scooters, or in the helicopter!!! That is exactly what we did today! Two other scientists were taken out by helicopter together with a portable fieldstation (?!!) to do measurements in nowhere for a couple of days, and the pilot got back and asked if we wanted to go for a ride, since he had to go and fill up the tank anyway! Of course we didn't say no to that!!

Me, in front of the Bell 206 helicopter

The view was magnificent, we went up to the Brooks range and to a gas station up there. The pilot, Scott, was really great, and showed us how a helicopter works... and even let both of us fly for a while!!! That is, he was still in charge, we got to do the steering for a bit. It was quite hard as the helicopter was very sensitive and would tilt immediately as you moved the joystick. It's a bit like playing videogames though!

The Brooks mountains

The pilots! I had things under control until Tobbe insisted on trying a triple Mollberger..

Happily exhausted we came back to the camp, rested a while and then decided it was time to go for a ride on the snow scooters! Joe came with us, and took us to the other side of the lake, where we walked up a small hill, for a better view. Since it's a nature reserve out here, we're only allowed to drive on the roads, and on the lake.. But the lake is big enough and you can really get some speed there, and fly over huge snow piles!
Joe and Tobbe, on our scooter trip

Right now Joe is cooking us dinner and has heated the sauna for afterwards... Life at Toolik really isn't too bad!

Well, just to show you we've done some work here as well, I will put out some random pictures here:
ALVIS and BLVIS, piled up and pointing towards Kaktovik, for observations there at a low elevation. This is why it's slightly difficult to move the boxes around during the 1 minute of warning we get about where to point them once the rocket is in the air. It takes a lot of practise!

We had some wonderful aurora the other night! The whole sky was lit up by it. Unfortunately they couldn't launch the rocket into this, of various other reasons. They did do tests of the instruments on the payload, and SMILE was behaving properly! We also had a test-run with all optical equipment, which went well in the end, although it started out quite chaotic before I had a good system. It was really good to practise, I'm glad that wasn't the real thing!
It's not so cold here anymore (about -10C) but we found out that the bunny boots are really comfortable and great at keeping our feet warm, so now we wear them constantly when going outside! And, for being that large, they're not that heavy either. It really is like the insulation is made of Helium instead of air...

Bunny boots with a Tobbe attached to them

We're now hoping for some more stars soon, so we can focus the cameras properly, and check with the stars where we're actually pointing. We've had some problems with cameras not working, as well as not being able to see anything through filters, but hopefully we're on our way to solve those problems... would be nice if we could solve it before the rocket gets launched, and not afterwards!

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