The next big step is being completed right now as we go through our Mission Readiness Review (MRR). Originally we were scheduled to have the MRR a few weeks ago, but with the government shutdown it got rescheduled. After this, assuming we pass, we can start shipping everything down to Antarctica. The campaign always starts to seem real once we start shipping.
Once we have shipped all of our payloads there will be a few weeks before the team heads down to the ice. It gives us a bit of a break except that we will all be going to a workshop mid November and will be getting ready for the American Geophysical Union conference held in San Francisco CA.
From Dartmouth Brett and Robyn are heading down south, Brett will leave before AGU and Robyn right afterwards. It's about a month long trip to get to the stations. We hope to follow their journey down to the ice as we did last year on the BARREL blog.
For those of us who are not traveling down to the ice, we don't get to relax during that month. We will be spending our time preparing the test payload, making sure that the ground stations are working, setting up the mission monitors, and preparing with our collaborators for the daily telecoms. Of course throughout all of this we will all be working on our data from the last campaign. We have so many interesting events and questions to solve and not enough hours in the day.
Last year we learned just how tough and all consuming running the campaign is and will be. That has however not damped the enthusiasm for this second round or the planning of the potential third campaign. We are starting to consider what might make a really interesting science question to answer. There are so many possibilities it is hard to just chose a few. Where we plan to launch and the number of balloons and payloads we will have access to will likely determine what type of events and science we would be looking at. Does one go during turn around (a time near equinox where the polar winds are such that the balloon floats to altitude then just sits relatively still in one spot) where the flights will be shorter, but you might be able to recover and re fly the payloads? Or do you do what we have done the last two years and fly during the Antarctic summer so that the payloads will stay up for as long as possible, but no hope of recovery?
So much to think through, but so many amazing possibilities. I can't wait to see what we decide and for this years campaign to start.