Friday May 22nd 2009. Day 8.


Today I was not meant to be working, but went in as usual in the morning as cover for couple of colleagues, in case they needed support. When it became clear at lunchtime that all was under control I was able to go home. This allowed me to attend the morning briefing and see how things were going. The answer was “pretty well, thank you”. So far the only problems being reported in such a complex system are rather trivial issues that will have no significant effect on the mission.


People are genuinely excited. Each new milestone is received with a mixture of relief and delight. There is plenty of tension under the surface because we all know that things could go wrong at any time. If they are to go wrong the next three days are a prime candidate for it. If we get through these three days unscathed everyone will feel relieved.


Today we passed yet another huge milestone. The SPIRE helium-3 cooler was re-cycled, reaching a temperature below 0.3K (-272.8ºC). This is an operation that has to be carried out every two days during operations to keep the instrument cold. Once again, the SPIRE experts sent the command and watch with delight as the instrument did what it was told to successfully. Another highlight was the operation of the SPIRE spectrometer as opposed to just checking it out. This led to a jubilant message that, for the first time, a spider-web bolometer had been operated in space.


Can we keep clearing hurdles without stumbling?  We hope so.


Tomorrow and Sunday we play the 1st ESA Open Golf Tournament. There will be four teams, including ours, competing and our hope is to finish no worse than fourth. This evening I was out shopping for the joke prizes and gifts for our two volunteer marshals. For example, the prize for the person who loses most balls (there are plenty of lakes) will receive a fishing net and a very large number of cheap balls that can be lost without feeling guilty. The worst shot from the tee will receive a very large, rubber golf ball and two hammers so that the luckless player can see if he or she can hit the ball harder with that! (one is a ball hammer). Our lady marshal will receive the biggest and best box of chocolates that I could find – mind you, her husband and father-in-law are on the NASA team – and our retired banker will get two rather nice, dedicated books (he is keen to get an aquarium, so one is an aquarium encyclopaedia, he is also fond of chocolate and desserts, so another is a dessert cookbook!) I’m nervous about this tournament. I just have this feeling that I am going to make an idiot of myself.


Unofficial Herschel image of the day archive:


Frequent updates are provided during the day on the Herschel Twitter (ESAHerschel) here: