ATTREX: First week of work

Day 1: Welcome to a new challenge

Welcome to my blog and to my amazing journey on ATTREX 2013.

 I feel excited aboutthis new campaign, even though it happens immediately after my New Year’s partyand I haven’t had enough time to rest!

Today, I flew from Miami, FL to Los Angeles, CA on a long 5hours flight. During this time, I have not only watched movies, solvedcrosswords, and listened to some music; I also thought about my expectations forthis campaign.  As a scientist, I have aninfinite number of goals. For example, I would like to develop my research skills,and/or to improve my performance using the basic knowledge I acquired lastyear. But as a member of the ATTREX team, I only hope for the fieldwork to runsmoothly. The problem is that there are some things you simply can’t plan for during a field work, and unforeseen problemswill definitely change our mission plans. In this context, I believe that myonly option is to be optimistic and to think positive!  Since graduate school I learned that obstaclesare the stimulus that impels our actions to successfully complete our work, andI am sure that ATTREX 2013 won’t be the exception to this rule. Thus, welcometo this adventure and to the new challenge that is waiting for us. 

Entrance of Dryden Flight Research Center (Who saysDisneyland?… actually, it is HERE where the “magic” begins)

Day 2: Hands on the aircraft (Kinda!!!)

Today was my first day at Dryden. It was nice to come backand see all the familiar faces and wish them Happy New Year.  

Our day started pretty early in the morning (around 6: 00am). I was still tired from my trip, but I like to get my hands on theaircraft, so I wouldn’t miss it for the world! Our job today was to install ourinstrument inside of the aircraft to complete the weight and balance. However,since it was the first installation for the mission, Elliot (our instrument PI)took charge. I then played the role of assistant, which it is not that bad…atleast I was still able to touch the aircraft (literally). Thus, as an assistantI was just handled the modules and the necessary tools for the AWASinstallation. The problem was that I wasn’t too familiar with the name of thetools in English (oops!). Luckily, our brilliant mechanic Steve was nearby, andhe handled most of the tools for me…Thank you Steve, you certainly avoided my awkward moment.  Despite this embarrassingmoment (that I think nobody knew until I wrote it), I still feel proud of mylabor! Today I’m not just a simple chemist; I’m a chemist who knows the name ofthe tools.  That’s the beauty of ATTREX,there is always something new to learn!!

AWAS modules ready for installation inside aircraft

Elliot Atlas inside of the aircraft during AWAS installation

Day 3 through 6: First thingsfirst:  Let’s clean some canisters!!! (WithHEAT!)

I finishedmy week and started the new one by cleaning canisters!!! This is definitely oneof the most important steps to assure the precision of our work. Thus, I haveto be really careful about the procedure and keep track of all the steps. Theprocedure is very simple, although sometimes it takes a couple of hours to bedone. Basically, I introduce the canisters inside an oven and pump out the airthat was previously setting inside them. Then, I introduce clean nitrogen andpump it out again. I repeat this process several times, so it keeps me busy formost of the day. However, one of the greatest advantages of doing this work isto be close to the oven. To be honest, the temperatures in the desert have beenextreme!!, and I think the hangar has a peculiar temperature regulator… It canonly be set to cold or “super “cold. So, if you are planning a trip to Drydenduring winter time, just be sure to bring extra coats or your own oven!!! 

Thecleaning system (OVEN included!!!)