Today was a terrible day for a lot of people. For the NCT team, we’ve poured our hearts into this instrument for years. It was an almost unfathomable shock to find ourselves cleaning up the wreckage of our gondola rather than watching it lift off towards space. I’m very grateful for the outpouring of support from friends and colleagues around the world–it really does help.
Given the media attention this incident has brought, I’m inclined not to discuss the crash in too much detail. Obviously there will be a full investigation into what went wrong today, so it doesn’t seem helpful to add premature speculation. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the CSBF personnel, and I’d like to avoid complicating the process for them. In short, NCT came off the launch vehicle badly and hit the ground several times as the abort completed. The aftermath you can see below.
NCT’s core components appear to have come through remarkably unscathed. The cradle landed upright, and the detectors and shields appear undamaged. The card cages were scattered about, but their exteriors show only minor damage. The electronics bay was destroyed, though, and all of the systems in it suffered some degree of damage. Virtually all of the cabling snapped. Many of these systems have been tested and used for decades. They have become so familiar that their loss feels oddly personal.
We’ve cleaned everything up and brought it back to the hangar. Sincere thanks are due to the HERO team for their calm and capable help with the gondola recovery.
Tomorrow we’ll–it’s so hard to say–start packing up for home.