8 February, 2008
After a long voyage by ship from Belgium, the 2 giant transporters for the radio astronomy observatory ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) successfully arrived in Chile on Thursday February 7th. During the afternoon, they were unloaded and placed on trucks to follow their voyage as of Friday February 8th to their final destination, the ALMA operations base, located at 2900 meters above sea level, close to San Pedro de Atacama. This last leg of the trip will take approximately 7 to 10 days and will be conducted under police escort.
Christened as Otto and Lore, the impressively large vehicles were manufactured in Germany as part of the contribution by ESO (European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere) to the global ALMA project execution.
Each of these vehicles has 28 tyres and power equivalent to two Formula 1 engines. They are 10 meters wide, 20 meters long, and weigh 130 tons each.
The transporters were specially designed to move the ALMA radio astronomy laboratory antennas. They are able to lift and move an antenna weighing 115 tons and place it on a concrete docking pad with millimetric precision.
The transporters were manufactured by the Scheuerle Fahrzeugfabrik GMBH Company, expert in the construction of large-size vehicles, by contract with ESO.
The ALMA project is a giant international observatory currently under construction at 5,000 meters above sea level on the Chajnantor plain in the region of Antofagasta, Chile. ALMA will initially be formed by 66 high-precision telescopes (with a possible extension in future), operating at wavelengths of 0.3 to 9.6 millimetres. The ALMA antennas will be electronically combined and will provide astronomical observations as though taken by a single individual large-size and high-resolution telescope.