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On 15th April the transfer of men and material from Innsbruck in Austria to Rio Tinto in Spain has begun. Ten people, four cars and a few hundred kilograms of luggage are travelling south. The mission has started.
Our two cats are carefully exploring the new cave, which has suddenly appeared in the garden. After a thorough inspection (first outside, then inside) our newly purchased tent has been declared habitable. The best thing; it can be built up and dismantled in just 15 minutes. On the lawn that is – no sand, no wind. To disassemble the tent we have to shoo away our furry friends, they wouldn’t want to join us for the expedition.
Meanwhile at the suit lab in Innsbruck strange figures are moving through the artificially bright night on the last weekend before the launch of the expedition… Bernhard Jantscher is taking care of integrating the new and stronger motors and the gear assembly into our rover, Phileas. Besides the motor control he also has to implement the data transfer from the rover camera. At the same time Julia Neuner is mounting the mock-up solar cells on Phileas – because we want him to look his best during the expedition.
For an expedition of this kind it is not enough to simply prepare hard- and software and just drive away into the blue. No, first of all the area has to be “scouted” – a part of the OEWF team travelled to Spain this January to clear up open questions about infrastructure, to get a close up view of the site and to check out nearby hospitals, just in case.
Quite a few other things had to be done and planned in advance during the last few weeks and months: check out travel routes, search for and book accommodations, secure power supply at the site, establish communications, get in contact with scientists and journalists, create a plan for each and every activity of every single crew member during the mission, before and after…et cetera. It’s a long list – just beaten by the length of the journey to Rio Tinto itself. We will be traveling for 2 ½ days covering a distance of about 2,500 km.
The tent is already in the car. The dog is sitting next to it and watching increasingly frustrated as his usual place is being filled up with strange things, things that are essential for use but have little meaning for him. Thus he keeps sitting next to the car and is watching us loading the car with: folding tables, suitcases, bags, rucksacks, sleeping bags, pots, pans and dishes, flashlights, ropes, air matrasses, folding chairs, notebooks, sunshades and a tool box.
Eventually he retreats sulkily. But our dog is not the only one who has to stay behind. A comfortably large insulating mat will not accompany us, instead lots of typical Austrian foodstuff, one has to prioritize. Long stays at rest stops are not scheduled. Every hour counts.
The checklist is done, the car is refueled and even the cargo bay doors closed in the end – we are ready to roll.
This article is available in: German
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