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Leonid MAC 1999:
Day 2 (November 12):
Edwards Air Force Base

I woke up at 4 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time), which was the same as 6 a.m. back home (Central Standard Time)--my normal wake-up time. I got up and showered at 5 a.m. Klaas, Michael, and I were going to do breakfast at 8 a.m. So I took my time. I called Karen at 6:30 and talked for 10 minutes. At 6:45 Peter Jenniskens knocked on the door and said we were leaving NOW! About half of the 11 NASA people at the hotel were not told our departure time. We also had to bring our luggage for a weight test! I barely made it and we were off to Edwards. No breakfast!

We arrived at Edwards AFB and were taken to a briefing room where the flight crew introduced themselves. Among the many things we were told was that we were not allowed to cross any red lines at the various air bases we went to. They stressed that in some areas "deadly force" was authorized. This statement alone would make us more aware of our surroundings during the next week and a half! We were also told that cameras were not to be used on the flightline at ANY air force base. The penalty here was that our cameras could be taken away and we might miss the rest of the mission.

There were two planes directly related to our mission. The ARIA (Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft) and the FISTA (Flying Infrared Signatures Technology Aircraft). A third plane, a C-130, would fly ahead of us and contained support personnel who, among other things, were responsible for making sure food and lodging were ready for us when we landed. At this point of the briefing everyone split up into two groups. The group flying on FISTA went into one room and everyone flying on ARIA stayed where they were for a 30-minute video presentation. I was to fly on ARIA. The video covered how we should move about on the plane. It was important, in case of an emergency, to carry a 15-minute oxygen supply with us when we walked around. We also needed to carry a little yellow case with us which contained water wings in case we had to ditch in water while away from our seats. The video also covered emergency egress procedures in case we ditched in the water or had to suddenly evacuate on land. The commercial airlines never tell us this stuff! At the end of the video we received our flight suits. Which, despite the fact that this was a piece of clothing, was pretty exciting.

Eventually we headed out to our planes. Peter told us where our equipment was and said we would need to run all the wiring to make this system work. We spent 4.5 hours installing the equipment. I even got to help troubleshoot cabling problems--just like back home! It was a lot of fun and was a good team-building exercise.

Because of the "no photography on the flightline" rule, photographs were limited to the inside of the planes or out the windows. The plane on the left is the FISTA and is being loaded with equipment. (photograph by Gary W. Kronk). The picture on the right shows the right wing of our ARIA, with another ARIA in the background (photograph by Michael Schmidhuber).

The picture on the left shows the television studio in the back of the ARIA. The picture on the right shows me trying on the headset that we would later use to observe meteors. Photographs by Gary W. Kronk.

This is me helping to install some of the cabling on the ARIA. Photograph by Jane Houston.

Unfortunately, as soon as we finished, we had a mission briefing that was 2 hours long. I grabbed a soda and Twix candy bar before we went in. A person from Military Intelligence told us about the countries we would be visiting and what not to do in Israel to avoid being arrested or harassed. He said we should not wear our flightsuits when we get off the plane, and that the Tel Aviv customs people would search our bags, take the serial numbers off our cameras, and question us about why we were there.

We sat around and talked until 4:30 and Peter drove us back to our hotel in Lancaster. Klaas Jobse, Michael Schmidhuber, David Holman, and myself walked to a nearby restaurant to finally get a meal. As Michael looked over the menu, he asked me what pink lemonade was. I told him to try it. He really liked it!

Go to Day 3--November 13

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