20 February 2009

2009 QWIP-Mojave Mission

Image: The Quantum Well Infared Photo Detector (QWIP) in action. For more information on this camera, Go to the NASA GSFC story "Inexpensive Detector Sees the Invisible, In Color".

Today was our first day of the 2009 QWIP-Mojave Mission, southern California. This will be a short mission. We plan to conduct two 24 hour thermal imagery collects at one cave using two different observation points. We will be here through Sunday, 22 February.

Image: The core science team for the 2009 QWIP/Mojave Mission. From left to right, Drs. Murzy Jhabvala and Peter Shu NASA-GSFC; Dr. Tim Titus and Mr. Glen Cushing, USGS-Astrogeology Branch.

Our objective for the day was to collect thermal imagery of Drop Cave. This is the cave that involves a 40ft rappel to access. The approach to this cave is quite difficult and even more difficult when carrying a large bulky box with a multi-million dollar camera, generator, gas can, and all the accessories for running this system. I inadvertently weaseled out of having to carry gear.

I had to meet some of the area land managers to show them what we’ve been doing in the Mojave. There was also one cave with a large guano pile and a considerable number of spiders, so I wanted to show them this cave as well. So, there were two biologists and one archaeologist who came out today. I took them to three caves and then we finished our tour at Drop Cave.

Image: Murzy and I acting like we're discussing something important. Credit: Glen Cushing.

Upon our arrival, Tim, Murzy, Glen and Pete had the camera set up and had been collecting data for one and a half hours. Murzy, Glen and I had learned quite a bit about field operations with this camera from our work out here in 2008. So, we felt we had our bases fairly well covered. We were right. So far, so good.

Image: Tim and Murzy discussing the operating procedures for the QWIP. Tim is getting the low-down before the rest of the team departs for Barstow.

We remained on the flow until early evening. Tim volunteered to stay the night to refill the reservoir on the generator. The tank needs to be filled around midnight.

I would have preferred to have stayed with the camera. However, I will be rappelling into Drop Cave tomorrow to finish up the map. I will be meeting up with a couple of my buddies, Dan Lowen and Doug Billings, and we will be finishing up the map for this cave. So, I felt it would be a good idea if I got a good night’s sleep before doing this. The alternative would have been to try to sleep next to noisy generator.

We’re hoping to retrofit the generator tomorrow so that we can run it 24 hrs using an external gas tank. If it works, we will all sleep in the hotel tomorrow night. If not, I’ll be spending the night on the lava flow.

Image: A fly over by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. I reckon they were wondering what we were doing out there. They have a nice bird. I wonder if they would want to help us with the overflights?

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