Unidentified man, Elizabeth Arnold
Satellite research discussion.
Unidentified man, Elizabeth Arnold
Satellite work discussion.
Fuel pump sounds
Includes conversations by unidentified people.
Aircraft start-up, take-off
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
27 Apr 1999
- Eureka Station #4
- 79.98808 -85.94472
DPA4006 omni mics; Sonosax preamp
Show: North Pole
Log of DAT #: 13
"Eureka Tape #2"
ng = not good
ok = okay
g = good
vg = very good
sound begins, Elizabeth and Bill converse
The other thing we were doing up here is we were, while we were on the air, the things we were doing, you ought to find out what we were doing on the air. First off, we downloaded images from satellites to here. No one's ever done that before. We did 100 meter resolution images. Nobody's ever done that before. We've got the leads and the sea ice, we're gonna take it back where ever we can in the tent there and try to look at it and see what the situation looks like north of here. We also got people at the National Naval Ice Center that did that just for us that had DMSP military satellites that nobody but the military uses. We also got people from Canada, environment Canada. (Bill speaks.) And also we've been FTPing images out from here, and while we only have, tomorrow we get off the plane, we have about, we're in the middle of our webcast already, you have to leave here at the crack of dawn in order to even get there before our window, excuse me, is over with. And we've gotta get out and do this fast because this is gonna be the first chance we get. The next chance, the next day if everything goes right. But we have to, we're up there early because we want two shots at it. We could leave right after this was done if we wanted. The biggest part of our job would be finished because we're trying to demonstrate that this works where no other satellite can even see it. The other thing is that we've also talked to the weatherman at channel 4 meteorology, NBC-TV. He was here downloading images from us on here while we were here and Dave Jones out of Washington, DC. He got some of the images from us and is putting them on the TV here and then, and then we also chatted with kids. There was kids, there was somebody, where was that globe school from? Was there some globe chat on there?
many voices speaking
The guy at the globe project off us down there at Washington, DC is setting up a conference call. He gave us the time, the place, the meet me number. So we can call in from here. Now I never would have been able to get that information any other way and so I've been able to get the kind of information using satellite imagery, the satellite imagery plus the interpretation from the weatherman plus the, the announcement of a meet me conference call and the date, time place, phone numbers, and all that jazz. E-mails back and forth.
You just said you were gonna go some place and try and download. Where are you gonna go and do that?
We'll go back to the tent. It's in the tent. It's already on the computer. I just got to look at it and study it tonight.
Let me show you this other thing here. This is some more of the story. It's quite a story here, you haven't heard it. This is the Alaska SAR facility, actually in Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska, can see satellites as they pass over the Pole. Once they get past this envelope here. And because of that, the satellites can download the data to Alaska while they're taking the data here. It has to be, Alaska's got to be in the footprint to see what they're taking in real time and so they can see, you can see what they see whenever they're in the field of view. Now this other line here represents what Tromso, Norway can see. And Tromso is, will also collect real time data over the Pole. The problem is getting it back from Tromso requires a lot more cooperation with the Norwegians. They're cooperating, but they also want money. So what we're trying to do is get our Alaska people to actually get the images as the Canadian satellite radar sat is cooperating in giving us these images because of this cooperative event where we're supporting their Arctic ice programs as well. These people that they send out in the field to study the ice need better communications and that's what this is all about. This is a breakthrough thing.
Can they download where they are what it is that you're doing?
If they had one of these, they could. And the other thing is, these are all the images that the satellite, the radar satellite is taking of our ice flows and they're doing that just for us. Now when we're out on an ice flow in this area here, we should have some very good imagery of it and they'll be downloading it to us while we're there. When we get up to the Pole, they'll do the same thing.
You're not out of the window when you get up there?
No, we're getting a different satellite up there. It's a different satellite here than it is there. This is gonna be 25 meter resolution. Now it's not spy satellites, but it's very good for looking through the clouds and at the leads in the sea ice for landing.
Like the shots you had up on the webpage yesterday.
No, no. It's gonna be four, it's gonna be, depends on which ones you're looking at. It's four times the best ones. He had one there that was 500 meter resolution and one that was 100 meter. And this'll be 25 meter. Now that's pretty good for the type of work we do because it covers a very large area. It's not like looking at a license plate and just covering the area of a car. It's like looking at a 75 kilometer swath and 25 meter resolution in it in 75 kilometers.
Now who would be able to see that?
We can see it. We're out here in the field looking at it. Anybody that was out in the field that needed that could get that kind of imagery from here and actually use that as a tool while they're out here working in nowhereville. (EA: With what equipment?) With this. Did you see what this is? This is all that satellite communication stuff and these laptops, which off the shelf, but still super powerful and then they've been interfaced to this equipment so that you can actually download what you receive here in the form of a conventional jpegs and gifs and things so that anybody can deal with it. Now I think that's pretty good because it's never been done before and because it's very useful and it opens up a whole new era in the science that it takes to understand these processes. If you're out in the field today and you're making all these measurements and it takes 'til next year to get the measurements from all around the place put together and into a picture, you're almost always looking at old data. Science, scientists have been looking at old data since I started working at Goddard 31 years ago. What happens now, the real data is right there and it's whatever you need right now. So although old data's still needed for trending and such, this idea, being able to get real time data in your hand when you need it, from not only the measurement you're making in the ground but the global perspective is incredible. It's much more incredible than putting up a tent in the Arctic. It's way better, way big time than that.
Could you explain the concept of ground truthing to someone who doesn't, you know, who's not a scientist? Somebody who's just sitting in an armchair at home.
Well, the satellite takes an impression. Let's say it's looking for scud missiles in the woods. What does a scud missile in the woods look like? You can't see 'cause the trees are in the way, right? So what, how would you know what's in there? I look in the woods sometimes and I don't see anything, but if I use my infrared night vision binoculars, I see something in there moving around, right? Well the satellite has different spectral bands like that, it has a different sensitivity to what it's receiving than our eyeball does, and if you, if you look at it, you might find a scud missile is brighter, hotter, has a certain type of activity all around it at a certain time of day and you put it all together. You say, "Well, that fits the description of a scud missile. There's a 95 percent chance that that's what it is." But I still don't know if that's really the truth. Let's send somebody out there and inspect one of these sites and see if it really is what we think it is. And that ground truth is what tells the satellite data interpreter that yes, indeed, what you saw as a black spot really is a scud missile, okay? And if you do that enough times in enough situations, you get enough ground truth data, you can calibrate what the satellite's looking at and develop an algorithm to mix and match all the different views the satellite has and come up with a conclusive answer. That's what we do for the weather and for the rain and if you look, I won't be able to show you 'til we get back to Resolute, but we'll show you some of the pictures that kids have done where they have processed satellite data and shown you where it's raining while it's happening, how hard is it raining in the middle of a hurricane, how the fronts are passing through, and what levels of rain, what the levels of snow are, where the fires are, by processing whatever data the satellite is generating. And you have to have someone eventually has to be down there with a bucket making the measurement of how much rain really fell in order to correlate that to cloud top temperature, let's say, but once you've done that and you've all the other bits of information together, then you can say conclusively that when I see this under this spectral band under certain conditions, that's, it means rain, and this can tell me how hard it's raining. And you have to calibrate that in order to know what you mean, what it means.
And Claire could do this, say, with sea ice and the images that you would get of sea ice and then she could be out in the field ground truthing or knowing more about what is right there where she is at that time, in real time.
Right. Because look at it this way. You see, the satellite can tell you where the ice is just with a visible picture in the day time and infrared at night, things like that. But it can't tell you how thick it is, right? So how you gonna know how thick it is? Maybe it has something to do with the albido. Maybe it has something to do with the how rough the edges of the ice are. Maybe if it's been out there a short time, it's very thin, if it's been out there a long time, it has time to get thicker. And if it's thicker, it's rougher. If it's rougher, it's probably thicker. And how am I gonna know? Well, let's go down there and make some thickness measurements on different types of ice. See how the satellite, what the impression of the satellite is from that ice and maybe we'll develop a complicate algorithm that says, you know, if you have this kind of albido at this type of angle from a satellite view, then that means very rough ice. But if you couple that with very smooth edges or something, that has been out there long enough for it to bounce into things and smooth up the edges or something like that, that would tell you that now it's a pretty good guess that it's very thick. And, you see, the more data like that that you get, the more you can start to use the satellite now to map out not only where the ice is, but actually how thick it is, which gives you the volume of ice in the Arctic Ocean which tells you if the ice is thinning in general or if there's effects of global warming. Just by knowing the surface, the surface might not change even though most of the ice is below the surface. It may be getting thinner. You see what I mean? So, and also, it'll take, just for example, suppose you had a lot more pieces of ice now than you used to have. Maybe by being out there studying the ice and hanging out, you say the only way I get little pieces of ice is if it has had time to melt down, break up, more leads, and it doesn't freeze fast enough. But if I have big pieces of ice, maybe it's because it's freezing more quickly and therefore, when I get the big picture from the satellite, if I see more and more little pieces of ice, then the ice is thinning. You see what I'm saying? But that correlation takes study and that's why scientists hang out here in the cold.
Yeah, we talked to Claire about that yesterday. What are your hopes for tomorrow? I mean, it seems like every time you set up the website, no matter where it's been, on the ice, up on the mountain, in the weather station, out here, I mean, it seems like it's all running pretty smoothly.
I'm really happy with that and that's because we've got some extremely good technical people, but what we haven't had to deal with, is like we're doing now, is bring it into difficult environments like this where, in fact, they're, other people that are working have to operate. It's one thing to have to operate it in a laboratory environment where, you know, you can predict things and your feet don't get cold and you got time for lunch. But you gotta do it out here, I mean it's still got to work, I mean here is, one of the big problems is you gotta time it right. Like I gotta get that plane in here and I gotta get out here and set this thing up and then hit that, find the satellite, wherever up there and it's coming up now and there's a window and then there's somebody else scheduled to use it. Even though it's there, I can't use it.
Well, that satellite is being used by people all over the world for just tracking launches and things and they had a Titan launch, but it got postponed and they were able to give us a window here. But the point is that you've got to time this stuff. That requires quick response like you would normally get if you were in a building somewhere back home, but to do it out here, that's pretty ambitious. And see we're trying to demonstrate that it's not out of the question to do all that together. I mean, we've got good people, we've got good people back at the other end of the satellite link that are doing great things and they're all working, we've got them all working together. What you see here is a very interesting cooperative effort. The story here, we've got people at the National Ice Center, the Canadian, the Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Canada, the SAR Facility in Alaska, people all throughout Goddard Space Flight Center, people that run the TDRS satellites, people that do the NOAA satellites from NOAA, and I pull them all together to work on this. We gave them websites, connections, we have tags on our website to them, and they're putting things on their websites specifically for this. Then we've got globe schools, people, a school on every continent, and schools all throughout the U.S. and Canada that are a part of this and the kids are thrilled that they can actually tune in and do this. Now I know that they ask a lot of questions about dog teams. It's really hard to get away from that. It's interesting to ask about animals, but, of course, eventually you gotta get past that into what's really happening because we've had some kids that have been processing satellite data themselves. And, you know, nobody would expect that to be possible, but they (tape ins interrupted)
discussions: Bill, Elizabeth, and others
So tell us how it went today and what your hopes are for tomorrow.
Well, today it went well. We had three hours of TDRS time today, but it started about, it started about an hour after we got on the plane, so not much we can do to control the satellite visibility here, so they started anyway, even though we weren't ready. They didn't know our schedule and I didn't know how fast we could get here, so when we landed we have about an hour and 45 minutes of TDRS time left. So we set up, hurriedly set up everything, and started transmitting and pointed the antenna a little bit and we got TDRS.
So it wasn't too tough.
No, it wasn't, it wasn't. It really wasn't. Not knowing where true north is around here, I just asked the pilot where, what the direction he's heading was when he landed, and that gave me the clue to point TDRS, so we didn't even need a GPS receiver to do that.
Now what'll happen tomorrow?
Tomorrow, they gave us additional time, so we should, we will have two hours tomorrow. TDRS will be low, we might suffer a little bit of multipath, so there might be a couple of outages, but it'll be at least as high as a degree and a half at the midpoint, after an hour, it'll be at its highest elevation.
For a layperson, what's that? What's a degree and a half?
Oh, that's a good point. 300, well, 180 degrees is horizon to horizon, so it's a one-eightieth of that total horizon to horizon is how high TDRS will get. One-one-eightieth.
So it could be just right above the horizon over there. You might be pointing the antenna horizontally.
For example, these mountains behind us, had TDRS been over there, we probably wouldn't have had any visibility at all. TDRS gets up to 9 degrees here, and that could very well be a 6 or 7 or even an 8 degree mask, so might not have had much of a TDRS. But fortunately, TDRS was the opposite of these mountain ranges and it was very, little horizon, little mountains or anything in our way in the distance where we happened to set up, so.
So what are your hopes for tomorrow?
Tomorrow we want to definitely do a webcast. We have 2 hours, we want to do a chat. We did a chat today and a webcast today. Wanna download weather images also like we did today, except today was a little more chaotic because we had no time to set up. And hopefully the generator won't go out on us like it did today because hopefully I'll remember to keep gas in it. So forgot about the gas completely and then it went out. So unfortunately, the students didn't know what happened, it just cut off, and I couldn't and thank you for getting the gas, you went and got the gas. And we powered her up, but we only had 5 minutes of TDRS left and that wasn't enough time for me to get on the chat and tell everyone why we had to cut off, so hopefully they're not worried about us. But, so hopefully tomorrow we'll keep, a generator lasts for about 45 minutes, so hopefully we'll keep the generator fueled up for the entire 2 hours. We can usually fill it up even though it's running and not have a cut out.
But all these trials are important.
Yes, practice. Practice for the real thing tomorrow. And, hopes for tomorrow. Oh, the temperature. I had both sides of the case open today and it got down to minus 10 Celsius in the case and so, and it still worked. So that's good news. So maybe it can tolerate a little more cold than we though. So tomorrow, if it's windy, hopes are that it won't be windy. If it is, we really have to be inside of a tent, unlike today. And hopes tomorrow is that it'll be like it has been at Resolute and Eureka. Good contact. Stable, reliable connection. Because we need those in order to chat and do the webcast. They're very sensitive to drop-outs. So, so hopefully, that won't happen. Hasn't happened lately, but since the TDRS is low on the horizon, we might have¿
Why, in your heart of hearts, is this important? What's the value of all this to you?
Well, it will provide people with an avenue or a different way of thinking of providing science and these kind of things in real time. Wouldn't it be nice to do this broadcast live? And that's very hard from here, but maybe this will open people's minds and make them realize, well, you know, these guys went up here and did it. And maybe we can make the packaging smaller next time and require less power. Maybe we can make it totally battery-powered so we don't have generator problems and a smaller antenna to make it easier. You know, all those kinds of things. This is kind of transportable. It's not really, you know, a portable, you know, palmtop link, or laptop link, so this will spark interest and desire from maybe the scientific community and other people at NASA or maybe universities, to use this. Before we left, we demonstrated to some groups that work with National Science Foundation in Antarctica and they're doing an expedition in the Antarctic, I believe next year, and they're doing a actual traverse, and so they'd like a satellite link. So this equipment, they came over and saw it just before we left, and they're hoping, I think they are hoping to take some of it or some version of it with them, and from that will spawn perhaps people and money to design a smaller unit or maybe they'll take it as is. Maybe they've got a lot of room on their sleds. I'm not sure how they're gonna do the traverse, but those kinds of things spark other interest in other organizations to make the reality of a high speed IP anywhere link.
So it's to help people make the technological leap.
Right. To realize that it really is realistic and start them thinking of using that and basically, we're driven by customer requests, and if we don't demonstrate this, show this off, play around with these tools, no one will realize that we're capable of doing that and they won't even ask. It's kind of a catch-22. If no one thinks it can be done, they're not gonna, not gonna ask, so that's how this helps.
Voices, plane sounds in distance
plane in distance
30:45 - 31:14
walking through snow, voices
32:35 - 33:30
sound, voices, walking through snow
33:54 - 35:56
walking through snow across the tarmac
35:58 - 52:30
fuel pump as it loads the plane (Bill explains changes in sound)
voices over pump discussing sonar, glycol, ice hacks, fuel cache, etc. in last 10 minutes
Yeah, it's not just the time, it's the number of hours. Like I spend 48 hours a day at work, literally, you know, between home. Of course, Claire does too. She's there 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.
But how long have you been thinking about this particular mission?
Well, I do a lot of these missions, so I only started thinking about this mission in November, but, you know, because we didn't think about it a lot sooner, it was a lot harder. But then again, it's still doable, because it's also got advantages because you don't have time to sit there and have meetings the next month on it. You know what I'm saying? Because if you have a year, you kill a year waiting until you get to the point where you have to act. So we jumped right in at the point where you have to act and so we sort of, by working very, very hard on this, along with our other jobs, we were able to keep the ball rolling through crisis after crisis. There are only three times a day you hear that can't be done. The average is three times a day. Is that right, is that about right, Claire? Hearing that it can't be done?
I don't know. Certainly we heard that many times. Certainly many times.
But 48 hours a day since last November you've been planning for this.
Yes, indeed, and the thing about it is you live a whole lifetime in that little bit of time. That's the way a lot of things are. You don't have time to fool around. That's what makes it a little difficult because, then it's also, there are so many, it's so easy to just give up on it. This contact with Vice President Gore. We were all set to do him, have him on the global phone call, and if I was back there, that would happen. But what's happening is that some PR person is not sure that it'll work, so they can't tell the president, "Go for it!" He's gonna say, well, they're saying, we don't want to try it if it doesn't work, and, you know. maybe we'll embarrass somebody and, so you know what I'm saying, now, if we were there, we'd say, hey man, if it doesn't work, this is what we'll do. You know, we'll patch you in first and if it's working for you, then tell him to call in. What's the deal? Call a measly number, right. So those are the types of things you have to deal with.
55:02 - 1:00:50
voices preparing for flight, moving things, walking around
1:01:30 - 1:03:25
plane revs up, takes off for the Pole
walking in snow
1:05:45 - 1:06:32
fuel loading at Eureka
1:06:45 - 1:08:38
walking through snow
wind at Eureka
1:12:26 - 1:18:30
distant plane revving up, taking off
1:18:30 - 1:22:15
silence of the Arctic, a little wind, few footsteps
1:22:22 - 1:25:25
walking through snow