Getting Caught Up

I haven’t posted for a long time, but in spite of that this will be a relatively short post. The NASA civil servants, except for me, have returned to the US. Mike Mahon made it home a couple of days before Christmas and surprised his girlfriend. Alvin Yew took leave in New Zealand and stayed through New Year’s. Honeywell, Hammers and L-3 Datron are down to a total of six people—HTSI/Bonnie Kramer arrived on January 7th.

Christmas and New Year’s were two day weekends here. I went to a town play of Charlie Brown’s Christmas in the Chapel of the Snows which was a lot of fun. I guess I’m not surprised it made it to YouTube. I was able to get a hold of my kids and wife on Christmas. My daughter Sarah (12) already had gotten her Maori jade twist necklace and T-shirts earlier while she was visiting my wife (they live with their mom) and my son Jay (16) got some books and he is a waiting has Christmas and Birthday cash when I get home. There was a great dinner, like Thanksgiving, which we all enjoyed.

Chapel of the Snows

December 29th was a busy day. I had arranged to go out to Black Island Telecommunications Facility, NSF’s satellite ground station, with two RPSC engineers. Mt Erebus blocks a direct line-of-site from town. I wanted to see the communications facility that NASA depends on to send and receive data to a commercial geostationary communication satellite. During the summer it is a short 15 minute helicopter ride; in the winter is a 6 – 8 hour traverse in tracked vehicles. Antonio (Tony) Marchetti has been the austral summer Camp Manager each of the last 15 years. The camp is also staffed by a cook. In the winter the station is remotely operated and there are about three traverses per season for planned maintenance. Because of the remote location it relies on wind, solar and generator power.

Approaching Black Island in a helicopter

Black Island Telecommunications Facility

Tony Marchetti on the radio with an incoming helicopter

That evening I gave a science lecture on the MG1 project. It was fairly well attended for a Wed. evening lecture and the audience included some of the trades people and heavy equipment operators that worked on the project. There was no “science”, I focused on the reasons why NASA was at McMurdo, why we were doing the upgrade, the crane lifts and the missions we support/will support.

New Year’s meant IceStock 2011 an annual concert by local amateur bands. I did happen to miss the countdown to New Years; I was in one of the dorm lounges talking to friends. There are an amazing number of talented musicians here. The next night two of the bands, Steel Penguin and Phat Ass Blue Grass, played Gallagher’s.

L-3 Datron/Arturo Morales has been up the hill working on the antenna system every single day, except for one I think. Hammers/Mike Condon has also worked virtually every day. We are pretty much on schedule and the vast majority of the credit goes to Mike and Art.