Monday, January 20, 2014
From the Ice: The recovery of payload 2Z
This morning (19 Jan) I went out and retrieved 2Z with a mountaineering expert, Roger. The payload was 31km SW of SANAE base, and had been transmitting data as normal ever since it crash landed after it’s untimely return from 38km altitude. We traveled to the payload via helicopter! When we arrived at the payload, the chopper lightly touched down about 30meters from the payload. We were concerned about crevasses, which due to the fresh snowfall in the past week, would have been nearly impossible to see. I belayed Roger, seen in the photo, who recovered just the payload. Portions of the balloon and parachute are visible to the right of the payload and buried in snow, but it was too dangerous to recover the parachute or balloon. As the chopper took off again, Nick could see the GPS location of the payload rise, as he watched the ground station data back at base! The mission went smoothly and we now have 2Z back in the lab. The solar panels, even, show no signs of damage, even after a week of poor weather in Antarctica. 2Z is now ready to be tested, returned to the US for refurbishment, and eventually re-launched under another, hopefully more long-lived balloon.