Tuesday April 7th 2009. Launch -?? days.


In the morning the Planck interviews were closed-out by interviewing the last candidate. This was interesting because, of the three candidates that I knew to some extent the last was the one who I perhaps knew best. All the candidates got a hard grilling from us and gave a pretty good insight into their suitability for the post. Afterwards, we had a long discussion as to the relative merits and produced our list of priority: what was pleasing was that it was nowhere near being a clear-cut choice and there was some quite intense debate. This whole process took up most of the morning.


Afterwards it was back to the intrigues of the Herschel launch and the possible deliberations of the committee of wise men in Paris. We are hearing hints that the process is actually a lot more simple and clear-cut than we believed, but we have heard this kind of thing too often before to feel confident. Inside information is that the committee is looking for three numbers to feed into a particular equation that will tell them how the telescope will behave when it is exposed to the noise and vibration of a launch inside an Ariane 5. Let’s just say that one reason why an Ariane 5 is not man-rated is that the hold is a pretty dangerous place to be during the launch: in fact, pretty lethal. We are told that the meeting in Paris will start at 8am tomorrow and we will all be waiting for the puff of smoke out of the ESA Headquarters chimney. The longer that the meeting lasts, the more that we will worry.  A straw poll of colleagues revealed all kind of guesses from pretty depressing scenarios up to gung-ho estimates of a quick launch.


However, whatever the Cardinals in Paris decide, life goes on and I have another Videocon to prepare tomorrow for our new test campaign. This means consulting with the Boss about what to do and making a couple of calls, sending some emails and preparing the agenda. Having missed last week’s Videocon when I was ill I do feel a little disorientated. Anyway, the job is done and we are really.


Tonight it was the turn of the set of bookshelves. This is a big, heavy job: the box weighs 31kg and the shelves are about 2-m high. It was fun. Then it was a matter of removing books from the display cabinet and books piled on top of books and setting up the shelves. Good fun. Things are coming together. It looks nice.