Archive for May 14, 2009

Launch Party

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , on May 14, 2009 by telescoper

The Big Day has finally arrived!

I’ve managed to submit my paper to the journal and the ArXiv before the little shindig we’ve been planning for the Planck and Herschel launch gets under way at 1pm. Business as usual so far, though.

Strangely, I haven’t managed to get nervous yet, although I have to say  there are many anxious faces around the department. I just keep telling people how much simpler their life is going to be if it all goes wrong, without all that messy and unnecessarily complicated data to deal with. It bothers me sometimes that I don’t often get nervous expect when watching sport. Mind you, being  a Newcastle United supporter probably makes me more nervous more often than most people.

Anyway, at times like this a  stiff upper lip is obviously called for. Anyone who cracks now is clearly not officer material. There’ll be plenty of time for panic later on.

It’s now about 12.45 and the launch is scheduled for 14.12.  With impeccable timing, the First Minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan, is due to arrive in the department at 14.30. I hope he doesn’t think it’s going to be delayed especially for him. I also hope we’re not all in tears when he gets here.

We’re going to be watching on a big screen via a satellite downlink. Not quite as good as being there in person, but probably better than watching it on the net (which you can do here).

Anyway, I can hear the wine bottles being opened so I’m going to barge my way to the front of the queue, feigning nerves in order to justify a calming tipple.

I’ll be back later to complete the story, for better or worse.

Fingers crossed. TTFN.

…………

 

Well here I am back from the do. It all seemed to go pretty well, although I wasn’t paying attention at the exact time of the launch – opening a bottle of wine – so I failed to get nervous even then. As far as I can tell the launch went like clockwork – or at least like Newtonian Mechanics – and the ground station even managed to handshake with both satellites after separation.

I was particularly impressed to see that ESA had roped in affable compère and media god Des Lynam to provide expertise in his accustomed role as  TV anchor man, although for some reason he was operating under the pseudonym of David Southwood:

Anyway, all seems to be set fair. I’m delighted. It will be a while before we get any science results, as it takes several weeks to get to L2.  I’m looking forward to first light from Herschel fairly soon, but science from Planck will be a while coming and even when it does it the information will be strictly controlled.

Anyway, in case you missed it here’s the liftoff!

P.S. We had a few bottles of special Herschel wine. Vintage 2001 Rioja, full-bodied and uncompromising. Not to everyone’s taste. I quite liked it but I was already quite drunk.

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