This week saw the arrival of a large group of DVs (Distinguished Vistors, in local lingo) to the Ice: a delegation of 10 members of Congress, staffers, and members of the NSF and NASA leadership. Most of the Congressional visitors were members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology: from the Republican side of the aisle, Lamar Smith (Chair, TX), Mo Brooks (AL), David Schweikert (AZ), and Chris Collins (NY); from the Democratic side, Donna Edwards (MD), Suzanne Bonamici (OR), and Eric Swalwell (CA). Also visiting were Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA), Todd Rokita (R-IN), and Jerry McNerney (D-CA). They were guided by Dr. France Cordova (Director, National Science Foundation), Dr. Kelly Falkner (NSF Division Director, Polar Programs), Dr. Scott Borg (NSF Head of Antarctic Sciences), Brian Stone (NSF Section Head, Antarctic Infrastructure & Logistics), and Dr. John Grunsfeld (NASA, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate).
The U.S. Antarctic Program rolled out the red carpet for the delegation, with a three-day program showing off the impressive variety of work being done on the continent. Their first stop after landing on the continent was to visit us out at LDB, and as part of the tour they piled into our high bay to visit SPIDER. It was fun chatting with the Representatives, and I particularly enjoyed speaking with Dr. Cordova, the NSF Director. It was gratifying seeing so many powerful people crowding to take photos of our work!
The delegation took a day trip to the South Pole the next day, returning to McMurdo that evening for a special NSF-hosted reception. The reception was invitation-only, with invitations apparently assigned mostly based upon what state you were from. Four young people from SPIDER scored invitations, including me. The food was excellent, and it was a lot of fun chatting with the DVs and meeting other scientists and support personnel.
The SPIDER team was particularly excited to speak with Dr. Grunsfeld. He leads NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, which funds the scientific balloon program, and is himself a Ph.D. physicist with an extensive background in balloon-borne astrophysics. He’s also a former astronaut who personally repaired the Hubble Space Telescope (not once, but three times!), and who famously called into the radio show Car Talk from space. We all enjoyed meeting him and chatting about his work and ours. All in all a fun evening!