"LIVE FROM THE STRATOSPHERE" P R O J E CT U P D A T E # 22 PART 1: April describes the detector arrays PART 2: Meet some ground crew: Lee Mountz, Alan Dunn, Mario Garcia _______________________________________________________________________ PREPARING FOR LIVE TELEVISION BROADCASTS 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 size! 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 technology. 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.