Without any further ado, here is the story, in pictures and words, from the perspective of Phil Farese, a lowly graduate student of John Ruhl at UC Santa Barbara.
After preparing for flight of 6 weeks MAXIMA ready to launch on June 16th. But then, the greatest fear of otherwise fearless ballooner's struck: bad weather. : First there were weeks of waiting but El Nino had created bad surface weather and high low level winds. As time wore on a new problem arose. Yep, the winds at float (the Balloon's word for 120,000ft altitude, which is where the balloons fly) were very fast as they often are in the middle of summer. If they were to fly they may have had a successful flight, but they would have been able to obtain at most 3 hours of data. They decided that this wasn't satisfactory and set into the schedule for the long wait.
Most of the team left at that time, leaving only one or two behind at a time to care for the dewar and continue to add cryogens to maintain the dewar in its flight- ready status. This way MAXIMA would be ready to launch on a moment's notice. This odious task was shared by many of the members of the MAXIMA team, specifically, Celeste Winant, Bahman Rabii, Adrian Lee, and Shaul Hanany. Paul Richard, the PI, and other members of the MAXIMA team were graciously spared the up to 5 flights between CA and TX that were necessary to keep MAXIMA in ready status for this length of time.
To make a long story short there were many Helium and Nitrogen transfers and weather briefings. Several times the MAXIMA team even got an O.K. to try for a launch. The team flew into Palestine from Berkley on a days notice (not the cheapest thing to do), did final prep to launch, and even "rolled out" to the launch pad, ready to go. Unfortunately, they were often foiled because the "low level" (<200-300') winds were too high to permit a launch.
Everyone was gradually becoming more and more saddened as their hopes for a launch from Palestine shrunk. They were being forced to consider moving their package to New Mexico for a Fall launch from the other Balloon Base. This was especially a burden for poor Adrian who was planning on getting married in late August.
Finally, on July 30th a favorable weather forecast came through, and launch was prepared for the 31st...foiled again!! But the next day looked mighty fine. So, on August 1st, after 6 weeks of waiting...
Out they went to the pad, and began inflating the balloon... which takes a while!! A crowd assembled (mostly Barth's family, and many pictures were taken.
Finally, at 8:00 pm Central time, the balloon was released! And here it is.. going... going... gone!!!!! Here we finally see MAXIMA RISING
With the excitement over the work begins. Data must be taken, and the package must be recovered. As is often the case, the gondola landed and got dragged by the parachute leaving a trail of garbage behind it. And through the diligent efforts of Celeste, Brendan, and Robin the Rigging guy they were able to pick up MAXIMA and bring the gondola back to Palestine just in time f or our CMB Family Portrait with MAXIMA, BOOMERang, and BAM groups.