Picking Up the Pieces

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.


18 responses to “Picking Up the Pieces

  1. those photos are heartbreaking…..

  2. It was unfortunate but these things happen, as in all scientific projects. Just think what happened at Woomera and Kourou with the rocket launches and other programs over the past few years. If we give up nothing progresses, so pick up the pieces and carry on team. James Hill ex Woomera rocket range.

    The thing is to continue

  3. Hope you can carry onn the good work. James.

  4. Despite all the tragedy… You (i.e. the crash video) made it into the news on German television!

  5. We were all cheering for you on this. It’s terrible to see. I hope this doesn’t impact your program.

  6. hard to take in what happened – especially BEFORE flight. Knowing the core systems look reasonably intact gives a glimmer of hope … but still.

  7. Staring at these pictures and the video, I’m at a loss for words… My heartfelt thoughts are with you and the entire NCT team.

  8. I am so sorry. 😦 *hug*

  9. martha and ron young

    Thinking of you and your team. Congratulations on a job well done, despite the tragic ending. Your commentaries and photos have been so informative and interesting. Hope that you rebound soon!
    The Youngs

  10. I’m glad to hear there is more that can be salvaged than it might have seemed at first. When NCT flies again — and I’m sure it will — “Per aspera ad astra” will have real meaning.

    Not to minimize the disappointment or loss from this, but this setback is nothing compared to never having tried at all. Imagine the loss to science if, as of today, none of you had even dared to think about building NCT! Instead, you guys are the experts already. Just need a bit of new hardware. 🙂

    Keep up the great work, always.

  11. My heart goes out to the entire team and specially my friend Jane, wish I was there to give her a big hug. Don’t get discouraged, we all know you are top pros in your field.

  12. So sorry to hear about the crash. Do not let this stop you, you are talented people doing important work. You must keep going.

  13. Pingback: A terrible accident « schriste@nasa

  14. Nicolas Barriere

    After so much work and such a disappointment you must feel the tiredness now… Courage guys, we are with you.

  15. I am so sorry to hear this!!! I hope you can get some rest soon. Everybody must be exhausted.
    I wish everyone a safe journey back home.

  16. Hi Eric. I just saw the video on abc news and talked to my brother, Mark, who works with you. I’m so sorry that you had a problem with the gondola detaching. I hope you guys can get the funding to do another balloon flight soon. Sounds like it was a cool trip for your gang; too bad it ended on a bad note. Pick up the pieces and make Mark come with you after he finishes his thesis.

  17. NCT Team,
    We are there with you in spirit! Keep moving forward and stay courageous. Great things will come from your amazing dedication and efforts.

  18. This is so sad. So very, very sad. Uncle Fred was married in that electronics bay, too. So sad.