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South America. The chelonian Atacama Desert is home to the world’s largest radio telescope: “Atacama Large Millimeter Array Observatory,” also known as “ALMA.” In an altitude of 5,000 meters above sea level, astronomers find perfect conditions for observing the universe: almost no pollution, no artificial lights, and very thin air. The most powerful telescope in the world can see an incredible ten billion light-years. To the edge of the observable universe. Good for the scientists, bad for the engineers: working conditions are extreme on Chajnator Plateau, where the 66 antennas are located: low oxygen levels, fluctuating temperatures from 20 degrees Celsius above zero to 20 degrees Celsius below zero - and strong wind.
Every time the telescope sets its sights on a new target, 50 of the extremely sensitive and valuable antennas must be moved. A major effort! And a battle against the weather, a lack of oxygen, and a race against time – with a schedule set by the stars.
To adjust the world’s largest telescope array, you need high-tech equipment! “Made in Germany”! Or more precisely: Two transport machines unlike any other machines in the world. Their names are “Otto” and “Lore.” They have been specifically designed for the job. Both vehicles are twenty meters long. Ten meters wide. And six meters tall. Two 680-horsepower diesel engines drive these 135-ton monsters. Despite their size, they can perform millimeter-precision work, even with a one hundred-ton-antenna on top.
Our hero Alfredo and his team have to complete the relocation of one antenna in an 8-hour-time-frame. If they stayed longer on the Plateau, health issues could arise very quickly. But the weather has its own plans, and a blackout forces the crew to change their mission…
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