Once again, its the night before launch. As usual, instead of sleeping, we are writing a dedication.
Dave and Tina are already asleep in South Africa, preparing to leave the dock at 8 am Cape Town time. Then a quick 15 minute Zodiac ride out to the launch site, and away she goes, RU29, the Glider we have christened with the name Challenger.
All this takes place between about 1-2 am our time on the U.S. east coast. Nilsen, the youngest member of the glider team, is staying up in the COOLroom for the launch. Chip will wake up and take control from home if necessary. They'll probably let the old guy sleep. I'll wake up in the morning, and a new basin-scale mission will have begun.
Before we leave the continental shelf of South Africa, we'll run Challenger through her paces. Test everything. Adjust flight controls. Run the standard box pattern to check the compass. Dave will tweak and make it right. He is going to watch this one closely - especially its vertical decent and climb rates to look for any sign of biofouling. Tina has done the research, working with Teledyne Webb, ePaint, and a global community of glider pilots to put together this long-duration antifouling test.
Still we don't want to spend too much time on the shallow water of the continental shelf. Every day we keep Challenger in shallow water draws about as much power as 10 days in the deep ocean. Once we head off towards deepwater and cross the 200 m isobath, we fly into a strong current heading northwest. We'll want to use the glider velocity to head across this as it carries us northward. The hope is to cross as quickly as possible into international waters before turning Challenger north toward St. Helena and Ascension Islands.
But back to the dedication. I asked the young people in the COOLroom, and they all agreed. This first basin-scale mission for RU29, the glider named Challenger, will be dedicated to our International Partners. Many of you are already hard at work to help make this mission a success. The glider team in Cape Town has provided wonderful support and expert guidance on the local conditions for glider piloting. Antonio the Navigator has been pathplanning for Silbo, and is now preparing for Challenger's flight. Carlos and his crew at PLOCAN will be teaching his class alongside ours, now with two global class gliders in the water. Chari from Perth will be joining us at Rutgers as we fly Challenger and Silbo and plan the basin-scale flights for the Indian Ocean. For Jorge & Julio in Mayaguez, Marlin in Halifax, Anna in the Azores, Enrique in Madrid, and Johnny in Bergen, if we make it across the South Atlantic, we'll be headed your way in 2014. And to Ralph in London, thanks again for your sustained encouragement.
Thanks to all of you in this growing international community, to our friends at Teledyne Webb Research who build these amazing robots, to U.S. IOOS for their enthusiastic support, and to our students here and in classrooms around the world. We are again launching a simple underwater glider that will bring all of us together for a common goal, that of flying global missions of exploration, and building friendships across many seas.
Force, wind and honor all.