Today’s successes had a common thread–circumventing potentially frustrating delays thanks to help from the other science group here in Alice Springs, TIGRE. TIGRE is a Compton telescope, like NCT, but uses somewhat different technology than NCT. Their group was the first to arrive in Alice Springs and will fly first. They’ve been extremely friendly and welcoming to us already, and today they saved our bacon–twice.
First thing in the morning, Jane and I started to connect the signal and power cables (“the harness”) to the detector cryostat. This is moderately delicate work, as the cables are fragile and the screws which hold them in are small. We were making good progress when we encountered a couple of connectors which we couldn’t screw in. Eventually we determined that the first few threads in the socket were stripped out; a longer bolt would work, but where would we find a US #2-56 x 5/8″ machine screw in metric-only Australia? The CSBF electronics crew didn’t have bolts that small, McMaster-Carr doesn’t deliver to Australia, and my calls to the local hardware store were met with baffled incomprehension. On a whim, we asked our neighbors–and sure enough, they had *exactly* the bolt we needed! Even the bolt head was correct. We breezed through the rest of the harnessing, and the detectors were ready to be connected to the readout electronics.
After lunch, we moved on to one of the jobs I find most satisfying–building the gondola. Few tasks we perform on campaign give such tangible evidence of progress in such a short time. With 17 years and five balloon launches under its belt, our gondola is venerable and a bit quirky. I’ve put the gondola together a few times now, so I have a sense of which bars need a bit of coaxing and which bolts are tough to install. With the addition of Jim’s capable hands, we were cruising right along–until we encountered a stripped thread. Unless we could find a way to re-cut the thread, we’d have to halt the gondola assembly. In Berkeley and in New Mexico, we could borrow the appropriate tap from the machine shop, but here we looked to be out of luck. And again, where (and as importantly, how soon?) would we be able to buy SAE-thread taps in Australia?
Though it seemed unlikely we could be so lucky, this time we went quickly to check with TIGRE, and sure enough, they had a tap which would work. With the threads cleaned up, the rest of the assembly process was smooth. At the end of the day, the gondola stood waiting for the detector and electronics which give it life. Great progress, thanks to the help from the folks next door.
And for fun–a little video!