Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Calderón (again) country:

Hello from Costa Rica. I'm here for two meetings, and yes, it's one of those trips where all I get to see is the airport and the hotel. Fortunately, I have seen some of this area before, and I'm quite sure I will get here again, on my own time, and be able to take some time to see volcanoes, rainforest, fauna, etc.

According to Allan Flores, the country's Vice-Minister of Environment and Energy (who spoke to us for a millisecond), one quarter of the country's area is under some form of environmental management. He also claimed that 99% of the country's energy comes from 'clean' sources, but I'm not sure what 'clean' means. Hydropower? Geothermal? Both are certainly possible here.

On one of my previous trips in 2001, I was here to observe the deployment of one of NASA's high-altitude research aircraft, the WB-57 (the other aircraft is the civilian version of the U-2, the ER-2). The WB-57 can fly well above 60,000 feet, which was quite amusing when we listened in to the comm between the taxiing aircraft requesting departure permission from the tower and ATC:

"San Jose, this is NASA 26 requesting flight level six-fifty."

Long pause...
"NASA 26, please repeat flight level."
"San Jose, NASA 26 requests Six-five-oh."
"Uh... OK, NASA 26, flight level six-fifty, um... OK."

Another pilot can't resist, and interrupts:
"What the hell are you flying?

Here she is taxiing after a landing:

And here is Andy Roberts walking the pilot (SH) back to the suit-up van. Notice the pilot and the engineer (SB, far right) have to wear a pressure suits, which also need a little refrigeration unit when they're not connected to the aircraft itself...

The WB-57 can get above the enormous tropical storm cells and sample the air that is being exchanged between the troposphere and the stratosphere, so that we can study how one level affects the other. Here is the website for the Harvard research team that was using the WB while I was there.

For lots of pictures both here in Costa Rica and many other place in Central America, visit Canary in a Coal Mine, which tracks the progress of my boss' son on his drive from San Francisco to Tierra del Fuego. Right now he's in Panama, pondering whether to go into Colombia or not.

Would you go? Read his reasoning, and give him feedback!