Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Well, sorry.  I have been away for a while.  I have been finishing up with classes and such and then writing a major proposal for the last month.

Class turned out to be pretty much a disaster.  If you don't remember, which I don't expect you too, I was teaching the balloon class.  There were three groups that were doing the project, plus me and the GSI tried to do it too.  One of the groups pretty much finished a bit behind schedule, but still while classes were officially in session.  They had issues (like, it didn't really work), but nothing unusual.  The other teams had all sorts of personality issues.  They fought with each other and basically couldn't pull it together to get the project done.  One of the teams basically threw away their design a couple of days before launch and started over (except for the computer and some other components).  They each blamed other members of the team for being lazy and not showing up to meetings and such.  Needless to say, their balloon didn't work very well.  The other team had issues too, but it was only with a couple people on the team.  Their main issue was that their computer system was VERY complicated, because they were actually using something that they are going to launch into space in a year or so.  So, they took the time to figure out how to properly use the thing.  It was a very impressive effort.  Their system worked pretty much flawlessly.  Both of these teams launched about a week after classes ended (but before the end of final exams).

The GSI and I built a system together too, since I had never done this.  It was a challenge, since I was using components that I had never used before.  I was also trying to work while doing this, so it was a little overwhelming.   Eventually we got everything done and working and launched with one of the other teams.  Everything worked flawlessly on board the system.  The only problem we had was that I forgot the ground-station at work, because I was so busy trying to get things for the class team.  Oops.  I guess I fail my checklist.

Just after this ended, I started to work on a proposal for a CubeSat - which, for us is a 10 cm x 10 cm x 30 cm box (a shoe box, basically) that we will launch into space.  It has a cool instrument on it to measure neat things in the upper atmosphere (what you might call space).  I had a lot of issues with writing the proposal.  I was under the assumption that I would be writing the science part and a colleague of mine, assisted by Master's students, would be writing the spacecraft part.  Well, this was fatally flawed.  The students, who I have been working with over the last 8 months to design the satellite, had only a real vague idea of how to write a proposal (as you might expect), and could not really answer tough questions about the satellite.  I had naively believed that they had written a final report that we could just drag and drop into the proposal.  How stupid I am.  We basically used very little of the original document, and had to do some significant work to put the proposal together.  The other bad part of the whole ordeal was that my Co-PI went on vacation a week before the proposal was due, and was extremely busy with other things the week leading up to that.  So, I basically put the thing together with a bit of help from others.  Not really what I was expecting.  It took many, many, many more hours that I had expected.  But, I guess you can say that I know a LOT more about building a satellite now (or at least proposing).  All of this work is leading up to a bigger proposal to a bigger organization coming in about 8 months.  We are basically proposing the same satellite, but 48 of them.  With 100 times as much money.

But, that was yesterday (literally).  Today we are on vacation.  We have a rough start, since both CrabMama and I worked up until the last possible minute, and so had to do a lot of stuff this morning.  Add to that that we have someone house sitting for us, so CrabMama felt that we had to do spring cleaning, and you get a wonderfully tense situation.

But, no more.

I am literally sitting by the pool while the kids are swimming around.  Here is proof: