First Show

12:30 am: The day starts early when your alarm is set for midnight.  We’re running through our flight checklist, preparing for CSBF to pick us up at 2:30.  There’s a weather briefing at 2:00 to give us a first go/no go for launch.  The winds are completely dead, though, so the surface conditions are pretty much ideal.

Unfortunately, since we weren’t expecting this launch opportunity, we were hustling to get things together in time.  We managed to grab about 2.5-3 hours of sleep before coming back here…

Zhong-Kai and Mark go over the preflight checklist.

Zhong-Kai and Mark go over the preflight checklist.

1:30 am: Electronics bay is sealed up for flight.  A few more preparations on the cradle are needed–attaching the flight dewar cap and the mylar sun shields.

Daniel with the top mylar sun shield.

Daniel with the top mylar sun shield.

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Attaching the final sun shield.

Attaching the final sun shield.

1:55 am: We’re tightening down the top mylar shield on the cradle–and we’re ready to roll out.

Ready to roll out!

Ready to go!

2:15 am: Weather looks pretty good, we’re go for flight.  They’re not forecasting as long of a flight as we hoped for, but current forecasts suggest 15-18 hours at float.  What’s likely to force us to cut down is flying too near the Mexican border.  Some high cirrus will cause us to lose some altitude at night, which will mean more absorption, less data.  Doesn’t look like we’ll get a second pass at the Crab, which is unfortunate, but if we can go a full day that’s nothing to sneeze at.

A solid forecast at the weather briefing.

A solid forecast at the weather briefing.

2:25 am: Big Bill just rolled out of the hangar.  The SIP guys are working on their electronics.

2:35 am: Listening to some apropos inspirational music (“All Systems Go–The Launch”, James Horner).  Moving out now!

Ready to attach to Big Bill.

Ready to attach to Big Bill.

McBride and Boggs keep an eye on things.

McBride and Boggs keep an eye on things.

Daniel connects the rotor.

Daniel connects the rotor.

3:00 am: We’re on Big Bill and the solar panels are up.

CSBF attaches the SIP, ballast, and crush padding.

CSBF attaches the SIP, ballast, and crush padding.

3:25 am: Gondola is up, crush pads and ballast are on.  We’re ready to head to the flight line, just waiting for determination of our final layout direction.

The gondola cart, parked.

The gondola cart, parked.

3:28 am: Sitting down for a moment reminds me how tired I am.  We’re running pretty much on nervous energy only at this point.  McBride is taking a nap on his cot–once we hit float, he and Daniel are driving eight hours away to the downrange station in Winslow, Arizona to give us commanding capability for a longer period.  (He and I had flown there on the CSBF plane Friday to set up our computers.)

4:00 am: Heading out to the flight line to bring the system up and do preflight checks…

Hard hats on for the flight line!

Hard hats on for the flight line!

NCT on Big Bill.

NCT on Big Bill.

Big Bill driving us to the flight line.

Big Bill driving us to the flight line.

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On the flight line.

On the flight line.

I did the preflight checks up on a lift.

I did the preflight checks up on a lift.

NCT, turned on for flight!  (The monitor and keyboard were removed when I left.)

NCT, turned on for flight! (The monitor and keyboard were removed when I left.)

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5:40 am: Preflight checks complete, only a couple of little hiccups.  NCT is buttoned up and ready to go.  Surface winds are basically nil.  There’s a bit of overcast.  Balloon’s not laid out yet, though.  Remember, you can watch us on the webcam here.

5:50 am: Balloon is being laid out now.  Sounds like they will begin filling soon after, after which there is no turning back.  Target launch is at 7:00.

McBride watching the fill.

McBride watching the fill.

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Good humor, waiting...

Good humor, waiting...

Nearly filled...

Nearly filled...

The balloon is released!

The balloon is released!

NCT has launched!

NCT has launched!

Into the clouds...

Into the clouds...

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Off on a great journey!

Off on a great journey!

7:30 am: NCT is launched!

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