When you drive giant transporters to set up 100-tonne dishes as a telescope in the desert, you develop a special bond with the vehicles, says Alfredo Alvarez

I drive monster trucks for the stars

“I ‘go nomad’ all over the place, but it’s with these machines that I feel at home” (Image: Kate Davies/Unknown Fields)

How did you get to drive these behemoths?
I started operating simple machines like front loaders and mining trucks 10 years ago. Then I got a degree in heavy-duty mechanics and went on to work as a mechanic on ALMA’s two transporters, Otto and Lore. They are 20 metres long, 10 metres wide and weigh 130 tonnes. After two years I was promoted to operator. Four of us do all the repairs and maintenance of the machines.

You work high up in Chile’s Atacama desert. What tasks do the transporters typically do?
ALMA has 66 dish antennas, each 12 metres in diameter and weighing over 100 tonnes. We recently picked the last one up from the operations support facility at 2900 metres altitude. We …

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