Wednesday, May 25, 2011

BTS-1 The Recovery

Here is what Skye, Fuzz and I had decided. We had one cupcake left but instead of eating it, we decided to just eat a little bit off the top, which is the best part anyways and then leave the rest. Why? Well, so when our rescue team found us, they knew that we left the capsule not because of hunger, but because we were bored. Plus that's what our note we left behind said too...

In other words, we decided to find a way to Port Arthur, TX. We head heard that the Janis Joplin museum was there.

While all of this was happening, the Fish and Wildlife team decided to use the BTS-1 Inspiration rescue operation as part of their annual training. So on Thursday they flew over the swamp around the last coordinates our ground team had provided and they actually spotted our red parachute. In fact, that's not the only thing they spotted...

Then on Friday early morning a  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Rescue team assembled at the Sabine Wildlife station. The wonderful Pat Reiff from Rice University and Discovery Dome assisted the team. She got up early, drove all the way out there and was a big help to the crew. The team assembled all the needed equipment and pretty much hit the road.

Well, once they arrived at a location they could get the airboats into the swamp, it really happened quick. Except when the airboats had to "fly" over grass. That slowed them down. Amazing how these boats work.

So they arrived at our site and they retrieved our Inspiration capsule, the parachute and the left over pieces from the balloon.

So because of the note we left at the landing site, the rescue team knew to come to Port Author and find us there. And they did track us well. We visited the museum and signed our names in their guestbook and then we went across the street to get some cupcakes. It sure was a great way.

And being found now also meant that we could finally start telling our BTS-1 story. And a press/media conference was scheduled for Saturday, May 14, 2011. 

Question 1: Rick McLastnom Yay! Welcome back! I'd like to know what the dosimeter showed. 

Thank you Rick. You truly deserved to win the capsule naming contest. Inspiration was perfect and she flew as designed. To answer your question. We had a dosimiter on board? I must refer to MS1 for this!

Question 2 from Emmanuel Kool Azubuike, which turns out not to be a question after all "No question dude!"

These are the easy ones to process!

Question 3Lourdes Quintana Couceiro Mauriceasked when the crew is coming back to DC (at least that's what we believe the question is/was?)

The entire BTS-1 crew will be in Washington DC on June 18, 2011 for the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution "Become a Pilot Day". We will be displaying our BTS-1 "Inspiration Capsule", meet kids, pose for pictures and check out other airplanes. We also hope to do a few additional tours around DC while there.

Question 4Siria Gardi-Montebugnoli wants to know "What are the lessons learnt from this mission and what changes will be applied accordingly to BTS-2? Thank you."

Siria! What a great question. Many lessons were learned on this mission. Most importantly, what you can't predict, you can't prevent. So planning is very important. There will be some amazing changes to BTS-2. We can't give you too much information at this time, but think of BTS-1 being an Apollo style mission with a capsule and a parachute. Now think about Shuttle style for BTS-2.

Question 5Duane Hyland: Fuzz, do you feel that your mission and your survival in the swamp are a product of your solid Johnstown toughness? And, a follow-up - what message do you have for the people Johnstown, who are currently going through some hard times. Thank you. Welcome back!

I believe my Johnstown origins played a part in my survival, but my training and a great crew were the biggest aspect. I would tell the people of Johnstown to stay strong, and that anyone can make a difference

Question 6Virma Johannsen "Can you please tell us if and when we can expect to see BTS-2. Additionally, will the original team have the "big bang orbs" to do it again after their ordeal in the swamps? And finally, what happened to Trigger MMS, was there "horse-play" involved which resulted in the swamp landing? 

Thank you Virma for following us. We can't release too much information on BTS-2 just yet. But this will be something that has never been done before. Think of it as a Space Shuttle style balloon mission. There will be some big challenges to be overcome. But we can do it. 

The time in the swamp was fun. It was like a camping trip. We trained well for this. What happened to Trigger? Trigger is so fast, he travels the speed of light. Once we blew the hatch open, he was out.

Question 7: Beth Hatch Maschmeier Did the crew have survival training and was it useful ? Did they get many mosquito bites while in the swamps? Will the crew have an R&R period before returning to the job?

We had extensive survival training for many possible scenarios. We will take a few days to relax and review the mission data. We were well protected from the mosquitoes in the swamp (fortunately!)

Question 8: Our dear friend Patti Barrett wants to know "How bumpy was the ride?"

Patti - the flight was pretty smooth. The launch was amazingly nice. There were some patches it was a little more rough. At some point I looked at the instrument panel and saw we were doing over 130 mph. Fuzz was a great pilot and kept us in pretty good shape. Sometimes it's difficult to judge if you are upside down or not inside that capsule. The footage will show how rough or not it really was. Can't wait to see the footage and then share it with you.

Question 9: Allan Dimmel: Welcome back . I'm glad you made it safe from your mission Also.I would like to take this time to apologize to Mission Specialist SkyeBleu for misspelling your name . My question: What was your highest altitude and how long was Inspiration flying before your landing in the Sabine National Wildlife refuge ?

Thank you, Allan. I'm sure Skye understands that her name can sometimes be tricky to spell. Our highest recorded altitude was about 78,000 feet, but we lost telemetry for about 15 minutes. We will review the data and see if we possibly got a higher altitude. Our flight time was about 3 hours.

Question 10 from Gladys Georgina Santos "How come "E.T." was able to phone home but none of the BTS-1 crew had a cell phone on them or bothered to ask to use a phone while they were at the museum, the bakery, so they could contact the rescue team. Q2: I also share V's interest in wanting to know what happened to horsey Trigger MMS. Did he "bail" out on the mission?"

Gladys, we would have to watch the movie E.T. again. Maybe we could do that tonight. I don't remember the exact specifics but I don't think ET was in a swamp and they had tons of equipment to built some sort of phone. Speaking of E.T. you know that our BTS-1 mission poster, designed byDennis Bonilla was inspired by the E.T. movie? Why we didn't contact anyone? Well, we left a note at the landing site and we decided to go and find some food and enjoy the museum. We knew they would catch up with us. We don't walk all that fast. 
In regards to Trigger MMS - we still have to look for him and get his debrief.

Question 11: Bari Demers How do you feel?

We are very tired from our days in the swamp, but we are very excited about the success of our mission. We all would like to thank you for your amazing support from the beginning

Question 12: Patti Barrett "'all cleaned up nicely. You look awesome after spending all that time in the swamp. What an ordeal."

We were a little dirty and stinky. But nothing that cannot be cleaned. I think Skye looks the best!

Twitter Question: Baby_Beau_Bear Was there ever a time that you gave up hope on being rescued?

We knew that our team is great and did their best to prepare us for the mission. It was stressful, but we were patient and knew we would find a way out.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BTS-1 While the Crew is MIA (Missing in Action)

You know what is so amazing? While Fuzz, Skye and I had so much fun inside the Louisiana swamp, our ground team put together a BTS Guestbook. And people left some of the most amazing messages of support for us! Just so heartwarming. Thank you all. If you want to read them all, here is the link to the Bears On Patrol BTS-1 Guestbook.

Here are just a few of the messages I wanted to share with you and some images from the Wildlife Refuge.

To the crew of BTS-1:
From the folks at the Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control Center in Houston, we wish you the very best and are hopeful for a safe and speedy recovery. After experiencing the pins and needles of waiting to hear from the Expedition 6 crew after they performed a ballistic entry in their Soyuz, I can tell you that we understand what the BTS community is going through and cannot wait to hear of your safe recovery and to hear your tales of these past few days.

From here on the ground team could only travel by boat.
Gators in the water. 

About to go "on land" the first time. 
Not easy to move. Add the mosquitos, the smell and the gator nests to the mix,
and you have yourself an adventure. 
On to the next location. 
One of the ground rescue workers - mosquito marks clearly visible.