MICA rocket launch, part 1…

So as I told you in my last post, I’m travelling to Alaska to launch a NASA sounding rocket from Poker Flat Rocket Range. Well, now I’m safely in Fairbanks, after roughly 23 hours of travel and three flights (Boston to Houston, Houston to Seattle, Seattle to Fairbanks). Flying into Seattle at twilight I got to see the Space Needle which was really cool. Flying into Fairbanks was sort of creepy; all you can see  out the window is blackness as far as you can see and except for one little cottage or house lit up. Then all of a sudden we were in Fairbanks, kinda came out of nowhere. The city itself is very wide open and rather un-city-like. There is a very large shopping center with Lowe’s, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and several grocery stores. Everything is very spread out.

As far as the launch goes, my job has basically been a lot of sitting around. The main parts of the rocket and the payload arrived yesterday afternoon. At that point, all of the rocket folks from Wallops Air Force Base got to work on unpacking and prepping things; that’s also when I and the experimenters from Dartmouth left. Today is more of the same for me, sitting around waiting. Our instrument, the ERPA, is already on the rocket, so I just need to wait until they’re all set putting stuff together. Yippee.

Now, about the weather. I cannot believe how beautiful and cold it is here. The sun rises at around 9am every day and sets a little after 4pm; so we’re not in total darkness. But it never gets really bright; although that might be because of the clouds. The sky hasn’t been very clear yet, which is a bit of a disappointment. Hopefully it’ll clear up soon so we can see some stars, let alone aurora. Driving out to the rocket range my first day I was amazed by how beautiful the landscape; it’s extremely barren and everything is frozen but it’s breathtaking. The mountains and valleys covered with snow and frost-covered trees is awe-inspiring. We even saw the Alaskan (oil) pipeline and some moose. I can’t really explain how cold it is here, was -32 degrees F yesterday morning when we left. Every parking lot where you leave your car for an extended period of time actually has outlets to plug your car into an engine block heater or it won’t start again. It’s crazy. The initial breath when you walk outside hurts your lungs and the inside of your nose freezes almost immediately. Luckily bundling up hasn’t been too much of an issue, but I haven’t really been outside for prolonged periods of time yet.

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