Friday May 29th 2009. Day 15.


Friday. Hooray! Except that I will be working for the next three weekends, so the concept of Friday has now become meaningless! This morning we had a long session trying to work out the timetable for working the next month and a half. I wanted to have the last weekend of June and first weekend of July free, but every weekend we have to have someone on duty to supervise Mission Planning activities and to report in the daily briefings. The problem for ESA staff members is that if they work a full day on Saturday or Sunday they are only paid a maximum of 4 hours work, even if they have been on duty for 10 hours. My colleagues are very honourable and, despite having young families, they insist on taking their turn at working weekends, but it is a bit of a silly situation. In the end, by swapping and swapping turns we were able to sort things out. Another rather odd situation is that for me it is far more beneficial if I work a weekend to take the compensatory days off as annual leave rather than as days of compensation for weekend work.


Things continue to advance steadily and quietly. We never imagined that the check-out of Herschel would advance with so few problems. All those test campaigns are really paying off now. Despite being the most complex satellites that Europe has ever launched into space and arguably the most complex satellites that anyone has ever launched into space no important components have failed; in fact, I haven’t even seen a report of a minor component that has failed. Of course, there is still the fear that everything will go pear-shaped suddenly. June 14th and the opening of the cover on the cryostat is getting closer and we know that this is going to be a huge test: will the image quality be good? Will the cover even come off when we ask it to? Will we even find the objects that we are looking for?


In the evening I made another attempt to see the whole of “Twilight” without falling asleep exhausted. This time it was successful and the effort was worth it. It is a wonderful film with some clever ideas and some great humour (“if things go wrong, I’ll become the meal”). The concept of a vegetarian vampire is fascinating.



Unofficial Herschel image of the day archive:


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You can follow Herschel testing and observations in real time on the Twitter.