Day 1 - Launch day
BLAST took off successfully! The balloon was brought to its launch site around 8:00 p.m. Kiruna time, or 2:00 p.m. EDT. The scientific team officially announced the successful launch once the balloon reached an altitude of 20 km, at which point the air pressure was low enough for the instrument to be aligned.
The scientific team members had to overcome a number of difficulties that could have imperiled the mission: thunderstorms, no sun to charge the batteries, internet outages and electronic problems. Barth Netterfield, one of the principal investigators, worked to adjust the balloon's fine pointing system that aims the telescope.
The balloon telescope is still working well, and the scientific team is quickly overcoming any small problems as they arise. Barth Netterfield's adjustments to the fine pointing system are producing excellent results.
The flight plan and the targets to be observed in space had to be altered, as scientists found the sensors were not quite as sensitive as they had expected.
BLAST's flight is to last about five days because of rather strong atmospheric winds—a short time, considering a possible flight time of seven days under gentler winds.
After the eventful days leading up to the launch, the BLAST team settled into a routine. This day was devoted to scheduling observations and sending remote commands.
BLAST's flight ended around 8:00 a.m., Kiruna time, or 2:00 a.m. EDT. The balloon landed on Victoria Island, in the Northwest Territories (Canada), after traveling thousands of kilometres. The team of scientists went to the landing site to verify the state of the gondola and instruments. The data gathered during the mission will be studied over the coming months.