The three-ton Suborbital Polarimeter for Inflation, Dust, and the Epoch of Reionization (also known as SPIDER) collected cosmic microwave background data in a 16-day balloon flight over Antarctica in January. The Princeton-led team had to break SPIDER into pieces for shipping and then reassemble it near the launch site, above.
Flight preparations included the pre-launch “hang test,” a final chance to test radio communications and run though the launch plans. Associate research scholar Zigmund Kermish ’03 had the surreal experience of being alone with SPIDER at the launch pad while the rest of the team took a lunch break.
Liftoff: SPIDER began its flight on Jan. 1, 2015.
SPIDER’s view of Antarctica, taken a few hours after launch. View more photos on the SPIDER blog.
SPIDER launched from McMurdo Station, near the bottom of the map, and landed in Ellsworth Land, top left, where its hard drives and solid-state drives were recovered by the British Antarctic Survey.