(Pampa Elvira region)

Nomad has arrived at its starting point in the Atacama Desert!

Yesterday was a day of travel and preparation. Three of our team went into Antofagasta to take care of imminent issues like buying food, and arranging the delivery of more supplies from the US. Michael accompanied a team of five from the Entel Chile telecommunications company out to the starting point, to arrange for the installation of our satellite equipment. Mark M. worked on calibrating the stereo navigation cameras using our new 6' calibration cube, and everyone on site worked to prepare things for shipment to the starting point. It was especially fun because of various rumors of an imminent storm brewing. "It's coming up from the south!" "No, it's coming down from the north!" Fortunately, we only experienced some strong winds, though we're told areas far to the south have been experiencing significant flooding and storm damage.

Today two team members were still in Antofagasta, but the rest of us delivered Nomad to the starting point. We drove down with the two infantrymen who are driving our current operations truck, an army ambulance that we refit over the past couple days. The drive from our camp takes about 30 minutes in a "camioneta" (4 wheel drive pickup truck), but with Nomad and supplies on our flatbed truck we took it more slowly; we arrived in about 100 minutes. Upon arrival we were greeted by the welcome sight of several deployed satellite dishes.

Nomad drove itself off the flatbed truck. Then the two Marks and Hans took turns driving it from the "loading ramp" (a convenient rise in the ground) up to the control center. We drove it for several hundred meters, over varied terrain, using joystick control. The ground here is quite soft; walking on it feels like walking on styrofoam that gives way under pressure.

The rest of the day was spent in preparation for a satellite test tomorrow. We set up the hilltop relay station, mounted the satellite dish electronics, and took advantage of the amenities in our control station (i.e., light, power, chocolate, and heat). We look forward to the test tomorrow, and the full-time satellite connection that will follow on Sunday.

Today was my first view of the desert beyond the campsite. The variety of the terrain here is incredible; the snow-capped Andes mountains dozens of kilometers to the east, the red and white soil of the nearby salt(?) basin, the seemingly smooth textured mountains all around, the coarse rocky terrain of Nomad's route. We're all excited by the prospect of sharing these views with the general public via the panospheric image display at the Carnegie Science Center beginning next Wednesday.

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Last Modified on: Wed Jun 25, 1997