PART 1: April describes the detector arrays 
PART 2: Meet some ground crew: Lee Mountz, Alan Dunn, Mario Garcia


April Whitt

Tuesday, Oct. 3, 1995

One would almost think that there is something to this Friday the 13th 
unluckiness business. Each day there is some new revelation of possible 
disaster that Mr. Haines-Stiles (the producer) takes in stride quite 
casually. This morning's question was, "Guess what television station is 
going on strike on Thursday, October 12?" We all knew it would be the 
New York station that is the hub and nerve center of this program. And it is.

But that's one of the minor problems. Brian Scott, the student from 
Houston who will be flying with us, arrives this morning. Someone has to 
fetch him from the airport (I was hoping I could do that and get out of 
another meeting, but no luck) (and goodness knows I need the rehearsal 
time). The headsets are proving interesting. There are eight of them, and 
we'll have to share. Each headset has long wires that plug into the 
plane at different places (up by the flight deck, next to Dave Cole's 
DAStar computer, back by the rack of video monitoring equipment) and 
it's amazing how quickly I can get tangled in the wires.

Tonight's practice flight will let us test the headsets. The camera crew 
will map out how they shoot each scene (I don't know all the technical 
terms). The scientists will valiantly attempt to continue research with 
all of us stumbling over wires. Dave Cole, Tom McMahon, Rhodri Evans, 
and Jackie Davidson comprise the science team. Both tracker operators will 
fly this mission (Ben Burris and Allan Meyer) because Ben will have the 
Thursday Jupiter Mission, while Allan tracks on the Night Flight to the Stars.

Laura Smith and Brian Scott, our two students, are the most calm and 
collected of the lot of us. They have their outlines ready, know where 
they're supposed to be, and follow directions perfectly. I'm still 
tangled in the headset wires.

We had sort of hoped to have a morning meeting, an early afternoon 
rehearsal and then a nap. Things wandered along longer than they were 
supposed to, and there was no time for a nap. Tom McMahon explained what 
the detector inside the dewar looks like.

The science team from Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin 
builds these detectors. Each is a one-of-a-kind instrument, designed and 
assembled in the labs downstairs at Yerkes. (Thank goodness I've had a 
chance over the last few summers to work with the Space Explorers from 
Adler Planetarium during the Yerkes Summer Institutes. Besides being able 
to enjoy the observatory and those excellent students, I've had a 
chance to talk to some of the incredibly talented people who work there.)

The detectors are arrays, like a checkerboard pattern, eight "squares" on 
a side. Each "square" is a well in which is suspended a bolometer, a tiny 
chip of silicon. Each of those little chips is "doped" or edged with 
gold, and has two minute wires sticking out, one on each side of the 
square. When those tiny chips are cooled to within about a fifth 
of a degree of absolute zero, the silicon becomes sensitive to photons 
hitting it. If you run a small electric current across the bolometer, 
when a photon hits, the current will change. That change in current is 
what the scientists measure and store in a computer. The current that 
runs across the bolometers is produced by a small battery, about D cell 

Each well with a chip suspended in it has a tiny cone to funnel the 
photons on to the bolometer, a very efficient collection system. Incoming 
photons enter the cone, bounce off the cone walls hitting the bolometer, 
the current changes and the signal goes to the computer.

If you look down on the array, it looks like a very tiny honeycomb (the ends of 
the cones look like that, anyway). And the whole thing will fit into a 
circle made by your thumb and index finger, less than a few inches across.
As mentioned earlier, the array is like an eight by eight checkerboard. 
Not all sixty-four squares are used, though. The four corner squares are 
used to hold the detector in place, and apparently there are two "dead" 
chips. (The thought of assembling this miniature array, soldering all 
those little gold wires with painstaking care, under a microscope, 
boggles my mind.)


[Editors note: the following three reports were written by Jeff 
Walling, a High School senior from Stockton, CA]

Lee Mountz is a research aircraft inspector for NASA. He has worked 
for NASA for the past twenty five years. The first job Lee had for 
NASA was as a crew chief for various flights; he held this job for 
fifteen years. After this, Lee was moved to the inspector's position 
where he has been for nearly ten years.

During his work as a crew chief, Lee had the chance to be a crew 
member on the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO), the world's only 
airborne astronomical research facility. Lee cites this as one of the 
highlights of his career.

Lee's interest in aircraft inspection and repair began when he was in 
high school and worked for his father in a aircraft maintenance shop.  
His father was the shop foreman, and Lee learned a lot from simply 
watching his father.

After graduating from high school, Lee attended some college 
courses, but soon realized he could receive the hands-on experience 
he desired from the military. He received most of his training 
experience on the Lockheed C-141, which is the plane that has been 
modified into the KAO. After the military, Lee received his IA 
Inspector's License.

Lee's family consists of his wonderful wife Mary and his nineteen 
year-old son, Matthew. Matt is currently doing his general education 
classes for college in San Jose, but he will soon transfer to UCLA for 
the remainder of his college career. According to Lee, Matt will 
probably go on to pursue a career in a musical field.

For anyone interested in his field, Lee suggests taking aviation 
courses in college and graduating with your BachelorUs Degree. This 
is not required to become a crew chief or an inspector, but Lee says 
the background is priceless.


Alan Dunn is an instrumentation technician for NASA. His job 
includes maintaining and repairing current technology, installing the 
newest technology into planes and equipment, and troubleshooting 
for solutions to any problems that could arise with NASA's 

Sixteen of his twenty years with NASA, Alan has been involved with 
what he is doing now. He has participated in various technical 
upgrades that NASA has experienced.

Alan followed in his dad's footsteps to become an technician. His 
father was a master electrician and always had something around 
the house that he and Alan would be tinkering with. The clearest 
memory Alan has of his father was when he was about four. Alan 
was fiddling with the wires in the back of his television set when he 
touched two wires together and received a shock that knocked him 
over. His father came into the room and asked what he had touched.  
When Alan told him, his dad smiled and said "Won't do that again, 
will you?"

After completing high school, Alan joined the United States Air Force.  
This is where he received all of the training he uses to do his job 
now. He was a part of the USAF for six years, and at the time wanted 
to be a teacher. It wasn't until a friend in the military talked to him 
about being a technician that Alan considered it as a career. Another 
major factor in Alan's career choice was the shortage of teaching jobs 
in California at the time.

On the home front, Alan has been married for ten years to his loving 
wife, Fran. He has an eight year-old daughter named Shaina who is 
currently in the third grade.

Alan says the thing he likes both best and least about his job is the 
travel. He enjoys visiting new places and all of the excitement in this, 
but at the same time, he doesnUt like having to spend so much tome 
away from his family. Another thing Alan's not too crazy about is the 
getting dirty part of the job.

Alan's favorite hobby is working with the Boy Scouts. Alan himself is 
an Eagle Scout and enjoys teaching other scouts about photography 
and astronomical photography.

For anyone who is planning on going into the technical field, Alan 
gives the advice of getting an Electrical Engineering or Advanced 
Technical Degree in college. He advises taking mainly math, physics 
and electrical mechanics classes as well as a computer course or two 
because of the recent need for computer-literate employees.  
However, if college is'Ut right for you, Alan suggest getting a two-
year technical degree from a technical training school.


Mario Garcia is a crew chief for NASA. His job is to prepare airplanes 
for flight and make sure that they are flight worthy. Mario has 
worked in the hanger as a crew chief for the past twenty-one years 
and has enjoyed every minute of it.

One of the parts of a crew chiefUs job is to travel as a part of the flight 
crew with the plane and to be able to give mechanical support for 
the plane no matter where it flies to. Due to this, Mario has had the 
chance to travel all over the world. He loves to experience new 
places that his job leads him to.

Before becoming a crew chief, Mario worked in one of NASAUs wind 
tunnels for six months testing different planes and their designs to 
achieve the best aerodynamic design possible.

realized that the Marine Corps was really where he wanted to be.  
During his four years with the Marines, Mario did most of his 
mechanical work on helicopters. This is where he received all of the 
training that he utilizes in his job today.

A daughter, Melinda, is Mario's only family. She is nineteen and 
attending college in Lancaster, CA. Melinda is studying to become a 
college psychiatrist.

To anyone interested in his field, Mario simply gives the advice of 
sticking with it.  "If you like it, keep working hard until you get it",  
he said.   

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