Launch Party

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.

16 Responses to “Launch Party”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Today I don’t believe in the Big Bang…

    Anybody in your department with enough bad taste to offer odds?


  2. telescoper Says:

    I phoned William Hill to see if they would offer odds on the launch but they wouldn’t quote. You could try them about the big bang…

  3. Bryn Jones Says:

    Yes, everything seems to have gone flawlessly with Planck and Herschel, a considerable achievement for ESA.

    And NASA has been having its own great successes: the astronauts on the space shuttle today replaced the old WFPC2 camera on the Hubble Space Telescope with its successor, the WFC3.

    Things are going really well for once. It won’t last.

  4. Anton Garrett Says:

    All good news, delighted!

  5. […] In the Dark A blog about the Universe, and all that surrounds it « Launch Party […]

  6. […] all  indebted to Ed and Haley for putting together this video of the Herschel-Planck launch party a couple of weeks ago. I think it’s very nicely done, despite the fact that I’m in it. […]

  7. […] but there is grim talk of slashed budgets and looming financial disaster for UK astronomy. The successful launch of Planck and Herschel in May, followed by the exceptionally promising snippets of data that we’ve been getting, has […]

  8. […] we gathered in a state of nervous tension (moderated by a steady intake of alcohol) to watch the launch of Planck and Herschel. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets when I write that the mission has been an […]

  9. […] break, I’m reminded by a tweet from Chris North that it’s exactly a year since we gathered nervously, fortified by booze, to watch the launch of the far-infrared observatory Herschel, together with […]

  10. […] updates by Stuart, Andrew, Peter, Robert, Phil – for full astro-blog listings check out Spacebuzz for tags […]

  11. […] been quite a long wait for results to emerge from the Planck satellite, which was launched in May 2009, but today the first science results have at last been released. These aren’t to […]

  12. […] had similar feelings a couple of  years ago, when Planck and Herschel were launched. Of course I was extremely nervous then , because many of my […]

  13. […] a gallery of wonderful images obtained by Herschel since it was launched in 2009 at the news item linked to above, but my favourite is one of the least […]

  14. […] Morgan earlier this week as I realised that  14th May 2009 (i.e. eight years ago on Sunday) the date on which the Planck and Herschel spacecraft were launched. Was that really so long […]

  15. telescoper Says:

    Reblogged this on In the Dark and commented:

    A little birdie told me (via a tweet) that today is the 10th anniversary of the launch of the ESA Planck and Herschel satellite missions. Can it really be so long ago?

    Anyway, both were superbly successful and both involved many friends and former colleagues from Cardiff and elsewhere, so I thought I’d reblog this post which I wrote on the day of the launch (on May 14 2009)….

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