Sunday, June 29, 2008

The golf ball in the aurora pictures

The golf ball.

A few people asked what the giant golf ball was in the last post. Over the summer, my boss arranged a tour for us. Unfortunately, I don't remember too many details. It is NASA's McMurdo Ground Station and run by Honeywell. It is the world's farthest South satellite tracking station. Combined with tracking stations scattered around the world, it tracks satellites that are in polar orbits approximately 400 miles above the continent. At that height, those satellites should complete an orbit every 90 minutes. (Mary K, can you confirm that?)

A 10m satellite dish is inside the golf ball.

Inside the golf ball is a 10 meter satellite dish. It automatically moves around to catch satellites when they come into view. It moves a lot quicker than you might expect. When the dish starts tracking a satellite, it will follow it for about fifteen minutes until it disappears from view.

My boss, Atlas, posing with the UpRight.

This UpRight is what Atlas really used to hold the world up. That Greek myth isn't true. However, it can also be used to complete maintenance work on the satellite. If you look carefully you can see orange lines on the floor outside the tires. That marks where the UpRight should be parked when it isn't in use. Once when it wasn't parked there, the satellite started tracking and crashed into it. I can't imagine the repairs were cheap.

Nik explains things that I have long forgotten.

The computers that work with the satellite dish are housed in the green building in in the first photo. Lots of systems. Lots of computers. Lots of automation.

A sight for sore eyes.

I took this photo from the golf ball on the day of the tour. It seems like so long ago that base looked like that. I'm not sure I'll get to see it like that again. I am tentatively leaving just two weeks after the first sunrise.

A walk down memory lane.

This last photo is a throw back to my high school years in Danville, PA. Two different times, I took off on a one week biology 'camp.' It was held at Wallops Island, VA. I remember there being some NASA stuff going on, but we didn't see get involved with it. Apparently, it is the headquarters for the project that uses the golf ball down here. Small world.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the virtual tour of the satellite monitor. neat stuff!