Ann Devereaux - Januray 9, 1997
NASA ACTS Satellite team
First full day at Palmer, and we spend it unpacking crates. Dozens of large wooden crates along with several official-looking grey plastic electronics cases. Our assigned station is in T5, a little blue metal building with a big front porch for our antenna dish. T5 is what they call the "penthouse", up at the top of the hill overlooking Palmer and the harbor beyond. We have the best view in the entire station, but also the most brutal wind, as we soon found out. Most of our work this morning was inside, uncrating and assembling the two major racks of electronic components for our radio, which now sit like the world's biggest stereo setup in the corner of the building closest to the front door. Since we didn't personally pack all of the boxes ourselves a month ago back in Pasadena, we were entertained to see the random extra items that had been helpfully (?) thrown in by other people, including a box of modeling clay. Well, perhaps we'll think of something to do with it.
In the afternoon, the crew at Palmer used the big forklifts to carefully carry our three biggest crates up to the top of the hill to T5 from the loading dock. These crates contained the heavy metal platform, metal frame, and 1.2 m dish for our satellite antenna system. This is where the heavy labor started, in lifting and assembling the antenna components. Along with everything else, we have brought a full toolbox for just such jobs; it was difficult for us to plan for this trip in sunny California with hardware and electronics stores on every corner, so we had to make sure to bring with us absolutely everything that we could imagine needing.
Finally, we break out our emergency phone-home box, to tell our colleagues at work that we have arrived (and are working hard, of course). We have with us an INMARSAT telephone, about the size of a weekend bag, which can use the INMARSAT network of satellites to tie into the phone company and allow phone calls to and from almost any place on earth. The first time we try it, the phone doesn't work. After some thought, we bundle it up in a thermal blanket, which warms the equipment, and to our relief, we see the telltale display of a satellite connection. Since that first time, we now make sure that the phone never goes out without being wrapped in its favorite "blankie". The cold does strange things....Ann Devereaux
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