Today I got to sleep in and boy was it nice. Of course, I was up by 8:00am and working on the computer. Today I was planning to work on the computer, do a little last minute shopping at the store, and then meet Scott at 1:00pm to take a hike. However, Scott came over to tell me that his roommate had offered to give us a tour of the LDB or the Long Duration Balloon facility at 2:00pm and we jumped at the chance. Scott, Seth (he is the guy from the USGS that we met on our way to Antarctica), and I caught the 2:00pm shuttle to the LDB facility. Scott's roommate, Chris, met us and proceeded to give us a tour of the entire facility. The first thing that you notice is that the facility has an awesome view of Mount Erebus.
Everywhere you go in this area you are greeted with the sight of Mount Erebus and Mount Discovery.
The LDB facility is attempting to launch numerous helium-filled balloons into the atmosphere. This is a NASA-sponsored project and the company launches balloons throughout the year form several different sites. If you would like to learn more about this company and the balloons that they launch, then go to the website http://www.nsbf.nasa.gov/ . The site also has some really cool pictures.
Chris showed us the launcher which is called "The Boss". It is so long that it took us quite a while to get a picture of the entire thing. This vehicle will launch the huge balloon and its payload.
The launcher that LDB uses to launch the massive balloons.
Chris took us into one of the buildings and showed us the frame for one of the payloads. He explained that when the balloon had finished its job that a small explosive device is triggered to release the balloon from its payload. Another explosive device will be triggered to separate the parachute form the payload.
This huge frame will carry a payload that will hang below the balloon.
This year LDB had three major payloads that they are hoping to launch. One is called "Cream" which stands for "Cosmic Ray Energetics and Mass"
and it will measure cosmic rays in dark matter. "Cream” weighs about 5000 pounds.
This is one of LDB's big projects this year.
The solar panels that will help provide the energy needed to perform its job are massive. I barely was able to take a picture that showed all of the panels.
The solar panels necessary to support "Cream" are massive.
The second project that LDB is focused on in Antarctica is "Anita" which stands for "Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna". "Anita" will attempt to track neutrinos. It is even bigger than "Cream
” and weighs approximately 8000 pounds.
This is another of LDB's big launches this year in Antarctica.
On our way out of the LDB facility we saw two trucks with helium tanks. Chris explained that it would take all of the helium on both trucks to fill the smaller balloon. That's a lot of helium.
It takes a lot of helium to fill these gigantic balloons.
We only had to wait a few minutes for our ride back to McMurdo Station. It was a Delta and it is huge. I was pretty excited because I had not had a chance to ride in a Delta yet. The ride was actually pretty nice (at least compared to some of the other vehicles that I have ridden in since I arrived in Antarctica).
Another one of the unusual vehicles used to transport people in McMurdo Station.
We got back to McMurdo Station and we did some last minute errands. After dinner Stacy got the Crary Lab truck and we took our luggage up to Building # 140 for "Bag Drag". This is an event that everyone enjoys as part of the process of leaving Antarctica. You have to take all of your luggage, your ECW gear, and your passport. You weigh the luggage that you are checking and leave it at the building. Then they weigh you holding your ECW gear and your carry-on luggage. Once that is complete, then you can return to your dorm with your ECW gear and carry-on luggage.
At "Bag Drag" we were told that eleven people had been put on a list and might be bumped from the flight. The only thing we were told is that it involved a medical situation. Bob, Stacy, and Seth were all on the list of people that could be bumped. We didn't find out that everyone was going to be on the flight until a little after 10:00pm. This gave us until 3:15am to either sleep, eat, or take a hike. That's right! We had to be back at Building # 140 at 3:15am to leave for the airfield. I decided to take a cat nap and hope that I wake up on time. Wish me luck.