As usual for these trips, I'm feeling antsy. But this time around, the feeling is warranted. ANITA launched on Dec. 2 UTC, the same day I started my journey to McMurdo.
To get to McMurdo, I first travelled to Christchurch via three flights: a puddle jumper from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles, an 11 hour flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, and finally a shorter two hour flight from Auckland to Christchurch. I went to the CDC -- no not that one, but rather, the Clothing Distribution Center -- where I was outfitted with my extreme cold weather gear. I left San Luis Obispo on Dec 2, arrived in Christchurch on Dec. 4, got briefed and clothed on the 5th, and was ready for our first flight attempt on Dec. 6.
We didn't actually leave for McMurdo until the 7th due to weather in McMurdo, but that's normal. What's abnormal and exciting is that ANITA launched weeks before anyone expected it to. Normally the polar vortex sets up in the first or second week of December, but this year it was ready to go well before Thanksgiving. So CSBF managed to launch two payloads even before I started traveling to Christchurch.
My job in Antarctica this time around is to transmit calibration signals from the ground to the payload as it flies overhead. We do this in several locations: at the launch site and in remote locations far from any radio interference generated by humans. Since I wasn't there, other members of the calibration team took care of the pulsing from the launch site, but we might set up for a second round of pulsing when the balloon flies around a second orbit.
But here's the crazy thing: for ANITA-3, it took 13 days from the launch to get to the remote location, WAIS Divide. But ANITA-4 is traveling at twice that speed. So it will probably make it there in 6-7 days, which would be two days or so from today, the day that I'm landing in McMurdo. To get from McMurdo to WAIS Divide takes at least 2 days and as much as 2 weeks to get to. So I'm understandably nervous.
Thankfully, Ben and Nan are on their way there. Maybe I can catch up with ANITA on her second trip around or maybe I'll be part of the communications team that monitors the calibration signals from MacTown. Either way, it's always exciting down on the ice.