McMurdo station the people who operate the helium balloons
that lift scientific payloads high into the stratosphere are
known as "balloonatics." Every one of them I met
was filled with passion and enthusiasm for balloons or science
met Robert Redinger in the lounge of our hotel in Christchurch.
Within seconds I discovered that he was a balloonist/meteorologist
charged with determining whether the winds were favorable
for a launch of the Long Duration Balloon, LDB,with its payload
named TIGER. During the Antarctic summer the winds high in
the stratosphere at 120,000 ft. (40,000 m) blow in a circular
path completely around the south pole. They make a polar vortex.
Launch a balloon into these winds and it will circle the pole
in two weeks and return to its launch point (within a few
hundred miles.) Robert's job was to determine when the vortex
winds had begun to blow and also to predict when the surface
winds would be light and stable enough to launch the balloon.
He predicted the right combination of winds would occur on
December 21, 2001 and so the balloon was inflated with helium
and launched carrying its payload. Robert is passionate about
ballooning. He owns two hot air balloons himself including
an amazing balloon with a mustache and eye patch named "The
Pirate." He'll show you pictures of these balloons as
proudly as a grandparent shows pictures of the grandchildren.
Talk to Richard and you'll want to fly balloons yourself.
Eric Christian studies the origin of puzzling particles known
as cosmic rays. I met him at breakfast in the McMurdo galley
one morning. He told me how he had wanted to work for NASA
since he was a child and now he had his dream job. He said
that this was as remote a spot as he could ever visit without
becoming an astronaut. Eric is as enthusiastic scientist,
he worked long days on the TIGER (Trans Iron Galactic Element
Recorder) then came back to learn as much as he could about
Antarctica, going on tours to the ice caves and historic huts
then he returned to the office to answer e-mail questions
from high school science students in Schenectady. Eric is
the model of a complete scientist, doing cutting edge research,
learning all the time, and sharing his discoveries with others.
cosmic rays made of high energy nuclei crash in to the instruments
aboard TIGER their energy is converted into light which is
captured by photomultiplier tubes. These tubes convert photons
of light into pulses of electrons. The size and timing of
the electron signals are relayed via satellite back to the
United States where Eric can study them. Eric wants to know
how the cosmic rays are accelerated to near the speed of light.
The TIGER experiment will provide important clues for his