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AMASE 2007: First days- Testing in Longyearbyen
It's Friday night and everything was working great until ten minutes ago. Most of the AMASE team has been here since Wednesday and we have taken over the conference room at the Longyearbyen Radisson again to set up our equipment and check that everything is working. Most of Thursday was spent unpacking and setting up. This morning we had safety training and gun range practice. This evening we successfully turned on and tuned our field instrument. A short time later we noticed we were leaking helium at a high rate and began tracing down the leak. After several hours of testing various components we thought we had tracked down the source of the leak when suddenly a tube welded onto the side of our GC inlet snapped off!

Oliver and I looked at one another in disbelief. Months of preparing, bringing a seemingly endless array of spare parts, and now a weld- one of the few pieces not easily fixed has broken. The broken weld lies at the interface of the GC inlet and a tiny 1/16th tube that acts as a vent line leading to the back of the GC. This tube is not extremely important- we can run the GCMS without it, but it is currently causing a huge leak and potentially introducing contaminants into our system. Thus, unless we can at least plug the hole, we will quickly drain our helium and not be able to run our instrument any longer.

Phew- with help from the rover team and several calls back to the States, we now have a temporary hole plug in the works and a new spare part on the way from the States. I managed to get a hold of our instrument manufacturer at 5:30 on Friday evening, they were able to find an old replacement part lying on a shelf and agreed to overnight it to Marilyn Fogel who won't be joining AMASE for another few days. The rover team believes they have a wire they can use to plug the hole so we can at least try running our instrument. What a night. I'm exhausted. Time for the 30 minutes hike up the hill to sleep at the Spitsbergen Guesthouse.

Kirsten Fristad
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center