Friday April 3rd 2009. Launch -?? days.


Today followed the pattern of yesterday: wake up feeling quite human and ready for anything and see how my strength drained rapidly after lunch. By three in the afternoon I was already feeling absolutely exhausted. Having got in to work quite comfortably in the morning, the ride back home in the after noon was a struggle that left me utterly exhausted.


There is only one topic of conversation and that is the events in Paris. Really there is nothing that we can do about them. They are also out of the sphere of influence of Mission Control. We assume that it is really only a case of dotting the is and crossing the ts and have been told to expect good news next week, but we have heard all this before. It is incredibly frustrating, particularly as there is a growing suspicion that we are not being told everything, but then we are pretty sure that even at a much higher level than us poor footsoldiers who are going to operate the telescope they are not being told everything either.


Meanwhile, life goes on. We still have to prepare for launch and for what will happen afterwards. This means commissioning the telescope and instruments (a new launch date means a new orbit, which means that different objects will be visible, which means that some observations will not now be possible when we intended to carry them out, which means that everything has to be re-planned). However, we also have to plan for the first science observations that will be made six months after launch. About eleven thousand hours of telescope time have already been awarded to no less than forty-two large projects that require a minimum of one hundred hours of telescope time each. On average, about eighteen hours observing will be possible each day: the rest is divided between the time required to communicate with the Earth (to send back data and receive new instructions) and calibration of the instruments. So, more than one and a half full years of observing has already been awarded. Although these observations will not be carried out before November, there are some changes that need to be made now: some observations are impossible because the target is no longer observable these are mainly comets; some observations have been badly defined so that they cannot actually be made at all; and some require the instruments to be used in ways that have now changed and must be changed to reflect the changes in the way that the instruments will be used now. In all, some hundreds of observations need to be modified. Later, all the observations will need to be carefully re-tuned: each observing team has a certain amount of time and the observations that they have must fit into that time; but that is another story for now we will just make relatively large modifications. The first round of changes will be made after Easter using a new software version that needs to be carefully checked out first and that software has just been made available for thorough testing.