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Intermission – The Atacama

After the post on Guillermo’s talk we felt that we should share a bit more about the location of the SAFER trials the Atacama desert. Gerd Hudepohl from ESO has used the chance of working within this amazing place to document some of the most interesting and amazing parts with his skills in photography. We invite you to visit his website and look at his gallery to see more of Chile, the Atacama, life in the Atacama and the Paranal Observatory:

And to find out even more, there is a nice piece on youtube about the Atacama:

Intermission – Guillermo Chong talks about chile

Intermission – Guillermo Chong talks about Chile

We were lucky with the timing of our trial as Guillermo Chong gave a presentation on Chile yesterday at the Paranal Observatory and the SAFER team was invited. Even better news is that we recorder the presentation and uploaded it to youtube so you can watch it too! The recording quality is not great but the presentation is really interesting:

The final four

The final four

The last 4 members of the main trial team arrived today. Instruments experts for Pancam, WISDOM and Clupi.

From left to right: Olivier, Rafik, Steve, Tor

From left to right: Olivier, Rafik, Steve, Tor

Now that all trial team members arrived we are ready for integration tomorrow and starting the filed test as soon as RCC sends the commands. For more information about team members check out the People page.

The road to Paranal

The road to Paranal

The "beast" pictured at the road crossing to Paranal

The pictures shows our first rental car nicknamed “The Beast” on the road crossing to Paranal. This is where any traveller to the observatory needs to leave the main north-south road and go up a serpentine over the costal ridge to get to the observatory. There is a small airfield on the other side of the road but sadly the safer team doesn’t own a private jet…

Once half way up the costal ridge the headlights need to be turned off at night which can make this last stretch of the road a tricky drive after sunset.

Antofagasta at first light

Antofagasta at first light

Pictured from the Raddison hotel

This hazy skyline is Antofagasta from the south end of the city. The tall costal ridge meets the sea and in between there is the city.

Antofagasta is a city over 1000 km north of Santiago and the closest city with an airport to the Paranal Observatory. The city is in a very dry environment and gets most of its water from a desalination plant which removes salt from seawater.

After meeting the local geologist last night and discussing the plan for the trials the advance team will head up to the Paranal observatory.

Advance team’s final approach to Antofagasta

Advance team’s final approach to Antofagasta

The advance team’s goal is to map some of the suitable sites for the trial and to transfer some data back to the remote control centre which is similar to what a real Mars rover’s team would get from the orbiting satellite and descend module imagery. The advance team will also set up some of the infrastructure for the main team such as internet access in the middle of the Atacama!

On the final approach to Antofagasta airport the team managed to take some pictures of the Paranal Observatory from the aeroplane:

Paranal Observatory from plane

Paranal from the plane approaching Antofagasta

Paranal Observatory from plane

Paranal from the plane approaching Antofagasta close up

The team is meeting the a local geology expert Guillermo Chong tonight and head up to the observatory tomorrow morning.