Andre Fortin, Elizabeth Arnold
Electronic communications discussion. Includes conversations with unidentified people.
Thomas White Ice, Elizabeth Arnold
Steve Graham, Elizabeth Arnold
Education and outreach discussion.
Unidentified man, Elizabeth Arnold
Electronic communications discussion.
Adam Siegel, Elizabeth Arnold
Electronic communications discussion.
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
25 Apr 1999
- 74.6841088 -94.9040222
DPA4006 omni mics; Sonosax preamp
Show: North Pole
Log of DAT #: 4
"Resolute #3: Wayne's World"
ng = not good
ok = okay
g = good
vg = very good
"We're at Wayne's World."
So tell me again about this stuff. You've gotta keep this warm.
Right, to within, zero, zero Celsius. To within freezing. So we just used heating pads on top of two of the rack-mount pieces and then a heating pad underneath the actual hardware that was used on the space station.
What do you think will happen if you can't keep it warm enough and you're at the Pole?
I would suspect, I wouldn't expect catastrophic failure. I would expect communications, especially communications between the computers and the hardware here, not to, not to work very well, to be intermittent. I would expect intermittent operation if it was too cold.
But you had this out on the ice, right?
Right, and we did have a generator running, and it was plugged into it to keep the heat. It was running all night and you could feel the pads had been running now and that's just about as hot as they get, but it's continuous and the heat acts as a nice sink and just heats the whole rack and keeps it to within zero. It was actually ten¿and then I put the front covers on the back and front and it was actually plus ten Celsius in there.
And you wanted to crawl inside¿
Right, yeah. But of course for the webcast and for it to work we had to open at least the front and it dropped down to zero, so¿
But you did a successful webcast from the ice outside, right? And what did you put up?
What did we put up? What did we put up? Interviews with the locals, the K-12 school principal, is that correct? Chad Adams. We had questions posted from the schools out on the Internet. Several schools in the Maryland area. One, was one from Australia? Who was talking to us the day that we were out on the ice? We had quite a few, I think about nine people in a chat. Are you aware of that? We have a text-based chat and they post questions to us and then we're able to answer live over the video to them. There's a 17-second delay, so that can cause confusion, so you have to slow your pacing down. The delay is because of the encoding and whatnot.
But you were basically out on the ice, talking to a bunch of people all over. And how would you say it went?
Excellent. Extremely well. It wasn't TV quality, not for sure. But you can't expect that.
So there was a picture of what you guys were doing that was being transmitted from the ice, with audio, that was going everywhere. And what was your job in all this?
"We're not up on Tedris, are we?"
EA: This is a dry run?
neat ambi clang
What could go wrong?
We're not using exotic gear except for Tedris link.
D: Are we on?
AF: No, we're on in 8 minutes. Problem- might encounter is pointing."
Dave and crew speaking, testing equipment
I'm going to the chat room.
g background ambi
"Negative 17 degrees in Eureka."
"You're on the air."
Lots of chatter concerning computer uplink, webcast
They don't get it, what's involved behind the scenes to make this work.
We got a green light going out. We got it!
CP: Yes, we've dot a green light on the streamer.
D: Software to do it is free.
Are you sure we're sending video?
*Tapping on keyboard
What's the wort? There's a 17 second delay.
Computer audio (of Andre)
* "Computer web cast audio" as computer voice
Steve doing webcast interview with Claire
I can't get into my server.
Sat. we lost our server.
Tell me what you've been learning since you've been up here.
What I've been learning? I've been learning to chop up seals and eat them, to eat polar bears, to eat all that walrus, to eat all that stuff. I learned it's cold, it's like the reservation, only up higher. And it's the same everywhere you go. You can find drugs, alcohol, you can find all that here and there's no place safe in the world from drugs and alcohol. I found that out. I thought if there's one place safe, that this'd be it.
What do you think about all this science stuff that they're doing, all this web stuff?
The science stuff? It's interesting. What they're trying to do? I don't know what they're trying to do. I don't know what they're doing. I don't know what their real purpose is. What it's gonna bring in the long run, but I figure it's making them some money and that's why they do it. Or else, why else would you do it? It's fun, too, but money, that's what I think. Someone's gonna get rich.
So you met some of the other kids who live here? That's pretty cool.
Yeah, it's pretty cool. (indecipherable). They're all happy with living here. Like me, I used to live in Denver, and I moved to the Res, I thought it was pitiful, and then I came up here and this is still much worse. But they're all happy, content with it, happy to live there for the rest of their lives, with hardly any outside influence. I respect that a lot.
Why do you think that is?
I think it was just their upbringing and without being able to be influenced by the outside. They're, it's like easier for them. I think, I haven't really, I don't really know 'em that well, to make any more conclusions than that.
So what are you going to tell the folks back at Pine Ridge?
I'm gonna tell 'em it's cold up here. I'm gonna tell 'em it's just like where we live, only it's colder all the time, basically, and I'm gonna tell 'em it's not too different, but they do different things.
So give me your name.
Thomas White Ice.
And where are you from?
From Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
Anything else you want to say? For posterity? For the radio? What else do you want to say about your time up here?
My time was well-spent, I figure. I learned a lot. It made me more culturally, what's the word I'm looking for, well, something. Yeah, that's what it is. More culturally aware. And I felt I had to come and represent my people and I had to come represent my friends from Denver and my people there and I feel I did a good job at doing that and it's about it.
Tell me what your role in all this is.
Relatively speaking, I'm the newest member of the team. I was notified approximately 3 and a half weeks before we left that I was going on the trip and that I was to coordinate all the education and outreach activities for the expedition.
But that's a pretty big component of this.
Yes, yes, it's a very large component. What we, well, what I did with a lot of the teachers at the schools that are participating is get in contact with them, make sure that they were going to be able to get online to the page and view the activities that we've put up there for them and have them go through them. And so, we could compare answers, and essentially have the students guide us along on our trip.
So here we are though, in an old weather station, and basically you had a global classroom going on.
That's correct. The beauty of the Internet, global anything. In this case, the global classroom, global outreach, what we're trying to do is involves as many people, as many schools across the country and across the world as possible in our expedition.
Has it been successful thus far?
Very successful. Just in fact, two days ago, while we were out on the bay, Resolute Bay, on five and a half feet of ice, we were doing a live webcast to five schools. Five of what we call the core schools that are involved with this project. We had basically a six-way interaction going between us and the schools and the schools and the schools and talking about what we were doing and talking about some of the science, the ozone science, the sea ice science, and as well as the communications aspect of the mission going back and forth with the schools and us on the ice.
And some of the culture, too, seems to bleed through.
The culture is, it's bleeding heavily through. This has been a major aspect of the expedition is to give the students and the teachers back home an idea of what it's like to live this far north. The students here and the principal at the local school, as it's called, have been wonderful. They've welcomed us with open hearts and open hands and the culture exchanges going back between the students have been wonderful.
What's the ultimate value of this in terms of education?
I think the ultimate value would be awareness. When you're in sunny Florida and you don't really realize that people do live within the Arctic Circle on a day-to-day basis and deal with these massive winds and these extremely cold temperatures and these massive amounts of snow on a daily basis. And it's basically a drop in the bucket to these people up here that there's 40 miles a hour winds and there's a wind-chill of minus 40 out there. Whereas somebody in Florida, that would certainly be an issue.
So we're shrinking the size of the globe is what we're trying to do.
Oh, definitely. The Internet is wonderful for that. And again, the Internet, combined with the education and outreach aspects is just a wonderful venue for performing these types of activities.
Why would NASA or Goddard be interested in that?
NASA, over, just recently, over the past few years, has decided that they need to spend more money in education and outreach. And I'm happy to say that I'm involved with that.
It doesn't get more direct than this.
Well, not much more direct. But, so we're taking a lot of those funds and using them for activities like this, expeditions like this, and again to involve as many people as possible using the wonderful technologies that have been developed through Goddard.
What's your sense? Do kids give a damn?
Oh, certainly, certainly. I mean, I think the interactions here and the awareness and the amount of people that have been involved is a tribute to that they do give a damn and that they want to know, they want to know what's going on.
Okay, great. Give me your name.
And your actual title, as opposed to imagined.
The actual title is Outreach Scientist for NASA Goddard and I am a contractor for NASA. I actually work for a company called Raytheon.
Did you ever think you'd be this far North?
Never in my life. If you would have asked me four weeks ago, I would have said, "What North Pole?"
Up in dome
Andre was saying earlier that a lot of this stuff, your average Joe can buy it, but it's what you're using it for that's amazing.
Right. We have a, we've got a ground station in a box in several areas over there and that's because the technology in general has found a reason to do that. That laptop over there has got a 10 gig drive, 400 megs of RAM, 14 inch, plus inch screen, some P2-366, something like that, so it's got all kinds of technology there that would have filled up a room not long ago, right. That's just the laptop. Now what we're trying to do. We have this ??? equipment, there's not as big a market for that. No other satellite in the world, for example, would have the capability ours has, and then put it in this orbit, where it can only, we can see the poles. You'd want that kind of satellite in an orbit that sees where all the population is around the equator. Plus or minus 80 degrees is enough. Going above 80 degrees either way would be pretty tough, and what they typically do, is have a global beam that covers that whole 80 by 80 hemisphere. Now the problem is that when you have a global beam that covers it all, nobody gets much bandwidth in there. So you'd have to have a very large antenna to get any kind of bandwidth. But our satellite not only goes above the 80 and comes over the Poles, because it's, the orbit is inclined. It's several times, each day it sees the North Pole 4 hours and the South Pole 4 hours. And when it sees it, not only does it see it, but it points a 10 foot dish at us, gives us capability, we could do 300 million bits a second with a 10 foot dish. And we don't have a 10 foot, we brought an 18 incher, but 10 foot is not considered portable enough for ice sheets yet. But the point it, you couldn't do that at all, (EA: You couldn't do that unless you had mules or something¿). Nobody out there would do that. Now what they don't, they're not selling that kind of thing, but if you need bandwidth in this region, who you gonna ask for? Where you gonna go? Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters. You got to call somebody like NASA that's out there doing some research and development in the area and try to push the envelope. And then, then it becomes easier and cheaper. What we're trying to do now is to understand the global planet, but you can't understand the planet without understanding the polar regions because 90% of the world's ice and 75% of the world's fresh water is in Antarctica alone. Lot of our research in Antarctica uses the same technology we're demonstrating right here at the North Pole and we're field testing it here because in 6 months we're going to be using it down there. So we can't field test it down there. We have 6 months at a time here now to get it, to improve it for that. WE have already got systems like this but they're not as portable.
Now, I talked to Steve and some of the kids about the educational part of this mission, which actually seems to me has already been a success. What's left though in terms of the success of the mission? Making sure that this equipment can actually work?
Well, here's the thing. We are pushing the envelope as to where it works next. We know it works, we're at 80, we're at 75 latitude right now. All the satellites could do the same job we did. Now we go to 80, that starts to limit the number of available satellites. Some satellites on the same longitude line could see 80. If you get off the longitude line, you probably can't. And then when you go up above 80, everybody else is out of the picture. Those, those satellites that are inclined enough to see above 80 are doing things like2400 bits a second in voice. They're doing telephone calls. And they're doing some good. We have one working down at the South Pole, been there since, for 15 years, since 1984 up that¿And then now, we're bringing this connectivity at a much higher bandwidth above the, above the Arctic Circle, above 80, above 85, why not go all the way to the top? At the end of the millennia get it done at the top of the world. It's kind of a little bit of a PR that way, but we're also trying to demonstrate that even as you get higher in latitude, you can still cover it. Now you see, right now the satellite elevation in 12 degrees max. Up there it's gonna be one and a half degrees max. Is it gonna work or not?
So you're pushing the limit?
We're pushing the limit and we do have it working at the South Pole at 1 and a half degrees. We did 50 million bits a second down there, actually, with a 4 foot dish. But it wasn't portable. We built a system like this tilt. We built it into a building and pointed the antenna out through the, the antenna's outside, but the thing is, the electronics is in a man-rated area and you do can do 50 million bits a second. You should be able to do that from the North Pole. What's the difference? The North Pole is water surrounded by land instead of land surrounded by water, so we were gonna have to operate on sheet ice. Who would need that? Well, scientists we have at NASA, NSF, National Science Foundation, and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Naval Ice Center, and the Arctic Submarine Program, all have people up there in the Arctic Ocean who need communications. Where are they gonna go? Well, if this works, they're all very interested in helping to develop the equipment into a smaller package, and then as years go by, we'll have more and more capability in a smaller box.
If this works, that enables them to have the science and the data in real time?
You're correct. Well, what it does is, see, what I do with this system, is we connect us to an Internet node in the USA, which puts you on the Internet so you can talk to anybody else who's on the Internet, do anything you're used to doing on the Internet. You have to get on to it first, so what this does¿we, we talk through this satellite here, this NASA Tracking Data Relay Satellite, TDRS, we talk through it to an IP node that we put into the ground station at White Sands, New Mexico. That's highly unusual because the government wasn't typically connected with Internet, but the security reasons and things like that would be a problem normally, but we've gotten through all that and Andre Fortin here was instrumental in developing the equipment to make that possible and all I had to do was the politics. But the thing is, we and the people at Goddard Space Flight Center have really broken through here to put an IP node at White Sands with this satellite. So I can then go http:/, my satellite and my instrument and talk to instrument on a satellite, any satellite that this Tracking Data Relay thing is tracking looks like a ground, looks like a ground user. See, but this satellite, this satellite TDRS is used to track polar orbiting satellites, equatorial orbiting satellites, low-earth orbiting satellites, and it tracks them with this steerable beam, points the high gain beam at 'em and gets very high data rates out of the satellites. However, if high, if we had that IP node at White Sands, we can now use our TCP/IP connections, go to White Sands to anywhere the satellite sees. Currently we're doing exactly that at the South Pole Science Station. It looks like a satellite because it's on a column of 2 miles above the Earth at the exact bottom of the Earth. Might as well be in orbit. If you put the same box that's down there on a satellite, you could talk to your instrument just like that. So that process is being developed by other people at Goddard now. We introduced the concept and the people that Andre's working with are now finishing the job and they're going to eventually launch a satellite that is actually communicating to the ground people through TCP/IP and not command and data like we used to have.
So, what this is really all about is the word that you keep using which is connectivity. What does that mean?
It means that you got information transfer. Communications. What you gotta be able to do is like we're doing right now, exchanging information, and that's what it's all about. Connectivity enables you to do that. You got eye contact, that's the same as RF link.
Shrinking the globe?
Yes, it's shrinking the globe in the sense that anywhere you go, even in a remote location, you can actually communicate. Now what we did out here today was exciting because a scientist in the field carries these tools with her, let's say, and she may be digging holes, making measurements with handheld instruments. Now she calls up to the satellite overhead that's watching her and says, "Send me a picture. I don't like that gate, try over here." And the satellite sends her information and she sends the satellite information. Here's your ground truth. You're seeing black spots, I'm standing on one of 'em. You know what it really is? It's, you know, seal poop or something, but, you know what I mean, it's really not what you thought it was at all. Here's what it really is. Now calibrate your satellite so that you know what you're looking at and then you can survey the whole globe at one time, and as long as you're calibrated, you know what it means. So we cooperate between the satellite and the local ground truth person that's in the field and now that connectivity in the field is so much better because the person in the field can actually immediately respond to each other. They can immediately respond. I just found data. What does it mean? Or, can you give me more of a big view so I can tell where the bad weather's coming in, where the leads are. We're now sending data to the dog team over there that's making its way to the Pole. We, we, for just, because we could do it, we sent them a couple pictures. What we've done is we've described the pictures to them over the phone and, it's just a courtesy because he needed some help and we were there. And what we did is we say, "Okay, you have some leads up ahead. You should bear to the east," and so he was coming up the 90, 90 west longitude line from 88 to 90 north, and now he's veered off a little bit to the east and he's still gonna get to the Pole, but he's dodging around some leads that show up in these satellite images. That's kind of an example of how you can use the satellite to help the guy on the ground, and he happens to be as good a test as the next test.
Or the scientist in the field, though, who's "ground truthing," as you say.
Like Claire will be. Now Claire goes out there and drills some holes and those holes will give you the actual depth for the ice. The satellites that we have up there now can see the ice but can't measure the depth. After she gives us ground truth enough times in enough situations, eventually they'll have another algorithm that maybe you can use to infer how thick the ice is. And the thing is, you get that by working with it and now the tools are there to do a good job. And this is the end of the millennia and what we're looking at is trying to get kids involved, so one of those kids just now from Maryland just called in and asked us if that thing he sees on his satellite image he just downloaded from the weather site is a lead at such and such coordinates. And we said, oh yeah, we pulled it up, and yes indeed it is a lead, and then he asked, well, where was the dog team on here and we told him where it was. So kids are actually able to use satellite data from their house and we got to get them aware of it first and aware that they can get involved and get the lights to come on that this is some technology that has become point and click. You can play video games, then you can do this. Get hot, get psyched, but if you play this instead of video games, you have learned marketable computer skills that you can get 50,000 a year to start with. We got a problem here because we got more of those jobs than we can fill with our own kids, so we're going to people from other countries, you see, to fill these good jobs, but our kids are using computers, aren't they? They all know video games, right? Why don't they learn marketable skills? There's no connection between a video game and marketable skills. There's a bad connection in you think you know marketable skills, then when you get on the machine, you know how to make mistakes and screw things up. You're not learning, for example, problem solving skills.
But there again, it's getting back to connectivity, in that what you're trying to reach those kids and let them know that there are other options out there.
Exactly and I think that if you get the lights to come on and show that this is fun, science is really neat, it's not just double integral signs. That scares most people away, right? But it actually is really cool to sit back and see the globe like no one, humans have never seen before, and zoom in and find out interesting stuff because you want to find out. I wonder what that is, zoom in, color enhance it, put it in motion over several days and watch how it changes, and say, I can do that. Take it and cut it out and make a film loop out of it, attach it to an e-mail and send it to somebody on the other side of the Earth.
Or talk to you live up here on the North Pole.
Exactly, and I think kids doing that could, you could find out that science is fun, I want to be part of this. And that's what we're trying to do with some of these kids. You see, Ethan came out of the woodwork there and he, and Adam over there, and those guys, and they're going hot to trot on it now.
End of interview
Ambi for interview
Adam and kids playing computer game
So talk to me about what you've been doing.
Well, we've been doing a lot of things. Last night we camped out in the tent and, yeah, that was worth it because the time before, you probably heard about it, yeah, it was very cold. I was about to, actually, but at the last minute, I decided not to.
Well, you were quite the wiz when you were dialing up the pictures of the North Pole and all that. Have you just learned that or is that something you already knew before you came?
Well, I had an internship at Goddard since December of last year. And we were looking at G-Var images, which are images like that from GO satellite, which is weather satellites just like you would see on TV.
You're already starting to sound like a scientist.
I'm sorry. Well, just like the images you would see on TV with the weatherman. And so, that's basically how I started and then these are basically the same things.
What's been the most surprising thing? What are you going to tell your friends back home about this trip?
Oh God, there are a lot of things. I was not expecting it to be this nice at all. And sun up all the time.
Even though it's 17 below. But what about the science? What do you find compelling and interesting about what they're doing here?
Oh well, definitely the satellite antenna. Aiming it, you know you have to get it exactly right, aimed straight at a satellite that you can't even see and that is transmitting data at the speed of light from the computer to anywhere in the world. And it's coming right back to you and in one second you'll have what you want. And you can't even see what's going on. It's really amazing.
Why do you think any of this is valuable?
Ah, well, especially in the future 'cause they're gonna be doing this so much. And right now we have all this big equipment, the big box for E-Com and Tilt and I'm sure it's gonna keep getting smaller and smaller and more people are gonna be using it and space travel. I'm looking forward to that.
What about the fact that you're sitting here in an old weather station close to the North Pole and kids from schools all over the world can send in their questions to you?
Yeah, it's pretty neat.
Which end would you rather be on, though? This end?
Oh yeah, I like it here. I wouldn't want to live here, but it's a good vacation.
And you've learned a lot. Give me your name.
And where are you from?
And you're at what school?
And how did you get to do this?
'Cause of the internship. Mike liked me, so he asked me to come.
Did you ever think you'd get this far north?
Yeah. I was expecting to come here.
Tell me your name.
Ethan (EA: Ethan what?). Sullus.
And where are you from?
And what are you doing here?
Actually, I'm going to school.
You go to school here?
Yep. I came up during the summer to work with my uncle and I decided to stay here and go to school here.
Did you have any idea all these folks were coming to this town? (ES: No.) So what's it been like for you?
It's different. I think it's better, actually. Other than the fact that we don't have an Internet connection, it's better.
Have you learned a lot? What have you been learning?
I don't know. No comment.
What do you find interesting about what it is that they're doing here?
I'm not sure. I've been thinking about it the whole time I've been here. Why do I like it here? I don't know.
What about the kinds of things these guys are doing in terms of satellites and computers? Do you find that interesting?
Oh, these people. I think it's really neat to have this happen up here.
Well, because people who have never seen this kind of technology, it gives them a chance to see it and see what it can do.
They keep using this word "connectivity," which I kind of thought was a science buzzword, but it seems to make sense to me. You know what I mean, I mean kids logging on and asking questions about what kind of clothes you're wearing and leads and the ice and that kind of thing. I mean, do you feel like that it's sort of a bridge, or am I putting words in your mouth?
I don't know. I think it's good for schools all over the world to talk to each other, to find out what it's like in different parts of the world.
What about just the value of all this science? Do you think that what they're doing is important?
I do think it's important, but not to a very high extent.
More the reaching out then, more the communication than the science? Any idea what you want to do when you get older?
I'm gonna be a programmer, I hope, a computer programmer.
Well, I noticed that you were all over the computers. Is what they're doing, from what you know, pretty interesting and advanced stuff?
But I noticed you're hanging around. So you're paying close attention.
Yeah. I'm trying to find out everything I can.
Has anything surprised you about what they're doing?
Well, I didn't think you could get a satellite dish this small to connect to a satellite, 'cause for our digital TV we need a 10 foot dish or bigger. Our digital, like, Direct TV or Star Choice. Those people in town with smaller dishes than 10 feet and they don't get any, they don't get a signal from the satellite.
Somebody was describing this place as the middle of nowhere. That's not the case any more, is it?
Well, I still think it is in the middle of nowhere because there's nothing around us for miles, maybe, well, I'm not sure how far, but a long way. And in any direction there's nothing but ice and snow and rocks, so we still are in the middle of nowhere. But there's more things happening in the middle of nowhere now.
These guys have put the place on the map.
Well, I think it's not gonna show up on the map for anytime soon.
Well, at least a digital map or something on a computer.
On the Internet it'll be posted, but it won't be on classroom maps. They usually cut the top of Canada off the maps and all the way around north of 60 they cut off.