The National Science Foundation (NSF) has responsibility for the management, funding, and operation of the United States Antarctic Program (USAP), the U.S. national research program in Antarctica. The program is multifaceted, having international obligations under the Antarctic Treaty, providing grantees funding for Antarctic scientific research, and providing the necessary operational and logistical support to researchers to execute their programs. The latter includes building, maintaining, and operating all research stations, camps, and other facilities, and operating two research vessels, ski-equipped C-130 airplanes, and helicopters.
The paper will examine some of USAP's logistical and operational challenges. For example, for 4 of the last 5 seasons the Program has used U.S. Air Force C-5B airplanes to deliver cargo such as helicopters and Twin Otter airplanes to McMurdo Station sea-ice runway at the beginning of the season. USAP has no concrete runway in Antarctica. Before “main body” deployment every October in preparation for Austral summer activities at McMurdo and South Pole Stations, a hard-surface runway is built on the sea ice in McMurdo Sound. This enables wheeled airplanes to operate until early December when the ice runway must be abandoned. During the 1993-94 Antarctic season (October, 1993 through February, 1994), the sea ice was too thin and too warm a temperature to chance using a C-5, so all materials had to be brought to McMurdo Station using smaller C-141 airplanes. Impacts on the program will be discussed.
Also in the 1993-94 season, several challenging science projects were conducted. Astronomy and astrophysics efforts among these included projects under CARA, Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica, and AMANDA, Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array. These two examples are in the initial stages of their work, and will continue for some time. The paper describes CARA and AMANDA, and the logistics and operational support that is required to sustain them. AMANDA, for example, is a unique neutrino telescope that is using the polar ice sheet itself as a detector for neutrinos that have passed through the earth. Strings of photomuliplier tubes are frozen into one km deep holes melted into the ice to form an array that will be the basis of the telescope. Long-duration ballooning experiments, where large balloons circumnavigate the Antarctic continent for up to two weeks at a time, will also be discussed. In some cases, these give astrophysical data comparable to data obtained from Space Shuttle flights.