Friday May 8th 2009. Launch -6 days and Counting.


Still tired and sore this morning, but I am getting progressively stronger. On the way to work I became aware of a car chasing me up the big hill half way, down the other side and up to the roundabout. I was pumping away as fast as I could but I was holding it up for about a kilometre and a half where there was just not enough room to overtake even with me riding as close to the edge of the asphalt as possible. Only when the driver finally overtook me on the roundabout did I see that it was one of our data processing team who resisted the opportunity to rid the team of one member.


The day was spent progressing steadily with the manual. The deadline has been extended to lunchtime Monday. Maybe it’s doable… just. The fact that users have been asked to use this version of the program to prepare the first advance science observations (Science Demonstration, before Herschel is officially released to observers) makes it even more important to get the documentation right. At the same time I am running a pretty thorough checkout of the program in Windows Vista: so far, all is well on that front.


Herschel and Planck are waiting patiently atop the Ariane 5, which will have its fairing closed on Sunday, although we can still top-up the helium tank until just before we roll-out on Wednesday. A launch countdown rehearsal has been made successfully and the engineers are doing what they call babysitting: really there is very little more to do over the next few days. There are no dramas to report, almost no news from Kourou whatsoever, which is the way that it is intended to be.


I have been asked to take over the Herschel Twitter account. After a round of discussions it was decided that if this is not a major job it is worth doing well. Interesting.


This weekend “Star Trek” and “Angels and Demons” both open in the cinemas. These I do not want to miss.


Today, walking round the site after lunch I commented that this was our last normal Friday. It took people a while to twig before they realised: from now on we move to 7-day working for at least the next 6 months. We have to take an average of 2 days a week off, but from next week they could be any day of the week. Finally people are realising that now we are not pretending: now it is all for real. And a weekend is only going to be a weekend on average twice each month.