Archive for August, 2008

Packages Away

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

When we head to the edge of space a lot of folks are flying with us. The big task after landing is getting everyones PongSats, ads, video and experiments back to them. This was quite the international mission. People flew with us from Australia, Canada (a lot from Canada), Belgium and Sweden and a few from the USA too.

I am very, very happy to let you know that all of the packages for all the participants have been sent out. They should all arrive to you shortly.

More Away 35 Pics

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Dale and Away 35              Last wind check
Unpacking at sunrise.           One last wind check.

and we’re off!

Flight of Away 35 Continued

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

We watch the temperature dive down for about 30 seconds. Now it’s nerve racking time. We have solid communication with the vehicle, but neither GPS that are tied into telemetry system have satellite lock. I jump out to the team tracking the beacon. It’s a big relief when they report strong signal and bearing. They’re following it all the way in.

From the balloon burst time, (and later with the camera images) the estimated peak altitude was 105,000 feet. We still need to review everything, however, I’m officially unimpressed by the new balloon. It should have easily cleared 120,000 feet with the helium volume we put in it. From the climb rate we know that the volume was correct.

Twenty-five minutes into the descent the beacon goes silent. We are down. The balloon team already has the fill equipment and launch bag broken down, (90 stakes pulled and over 100 bean bags removed). All that’s left to pack up is the antennas farm. After forty-five minutes we’re saddled up and rolling back to the town of Gerlach. We are now in search of data and weirdly enough we expect to find it over an ice tea in Bruno’s air conditioned restaurant.
We’re now cooled and watered and waiting for lunch. The laptops come out and we log on the to local wifi and check the mail. There is backup to the backup to the backup. This final system takes a GPS position every ten minutes, uploads it to a satellite. The data is then sent to us by e-mail. It’s close, 12 miles from Brunos and 3.5 miles off the road. The fact that the only approach is though something called “Wall Canyon” doesn’t really hit me yet. We download a high res image from google Earth that shows a good jeep trail in for the first mile.

Twelve miles up the highway and five miles down a gravel road and we’re there. What looked like a jeep trail is really a arroyo. After some scouting there is a jeep trail about a mile up the road. Dale takes his jeep and scouts it out. It does lead into the canyon, but it’s really rocky and walking up the better option. The mountain is a solid vertical face across twenty miles. Wall canyon looks like the only way in, but it’s late and well over 100 degrees. We’ve all be up since 3:30am and are in no shape to tackle it. Away 35 will have to wait till morning.

At dawn Kevin and I have all our gear loaded on our backs and we head in. The rest of the team are providing backup at the road. While on the jeep trail we make good time. After a mile we drop into the canyon. The plan is to follow the canyon through the pass. Away 35 is on a slope on the other side. The center of the canyon holds a creek that is choked with brush and juniper trees. The side are sheer walls, Oh, I get it, Wall Canyon. Our only choice is the gap between wall and creek. The hike turned into a climb. We were either on steep shale slides or climbing over boulders. Kevin got the technique down for lightly dancing over the shale runs. Your’s truly was a little unnerved by this as each step would cause a slide. The foot diameter shale chunks would tumble over the edge and explode after the long fall into the ravine. We came across two amazing pools, one with small fish. The scenes were stunning. The one small annoying detail was that each pool was fed by a waterfall that we needed to scale to move forward. For those of you that never think of waterfalls and pools and Blackrock at the same time, you really need to get off the lake bed more often.

After the second waterfall we could see the two pinnacles ahead that we needed to go through. Problem one, we were looking up at a 60 degree angle. Problem two, after we got off the jeep trail we’ve only made a half a mile in three hours. Problem three, the next rock face is impassable.

When we make it back to the cars we are beat and there’s no time for another attempt. The team must start back home.

We talked with Bruno before leaving. He says there is a back way in on the other side of the mountain, but he is very vague about the details. He’s insists “there’s a way in”.  We’ll be back.  More later.

Australia’s Astronaut

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

PongSat Astronaut

This brave Australian flew aboard Away 35 in PongSat “Capsule” 3208. He conducted film and shielding experiments in the same capsule.

Hurray for Vikesland!!!

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Away 35 Video

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008


JPA on the Discovery Channel

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

On the front page of the new Discovery series, ‘Project Earth’ there is a great JPA video from the Away 36 mission.