Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My first test drive

written by Stephanie Fleischer, translated by Regina Peldszus
Moonbuggy Team Germany/Russia 2010


Leipzig, March 20, 2010

After a four hour journey and full of anticipation, I arrive in Leipzig with my friend Stefan who I've known for many years. He once told be about a Moonbuggy Race for which they were developing a "Moon Vehicle" to stand the test in a competition. At the time I thought that was all very interesting but you'd need to be good at physics and that it would be difficult to get into the field. Until my friend asked me whether I was up for taking part in such a race. Since then I've been hooked.

This is why I'm in Leipzig now, looking for project director Ralf Heckel. At the institute we found out that he's in the workshop with the apprentices, tinkering avidly on the Moonbuggy. When we get to the workshop it's indeed packed and work on the Moonbuggy is in full swing, although it's Friday and close to 8pm. Stefan mills another reinforcing truss for the frame of the rear seat. "Milling", that's a term I've never really had to incorporate in my vocabulary so far. Suddenly he takes my hand and guides me to that monstrous mill where he's supposed to work on the rod. After a small presentation and induction I'm allowed to have a go and mill a part for our vehicle. Actually it's not hard at all. I'd never thought I'd ever operate a machine that big.

Afterward it's off to the big parking lot where I test-drive the Moonbuggy for the first time. First I have to get used to the fact that I have to totally rely on my front-seat driver, who literally controls all buttons and levers. I can't intervene if I evaluate a situation differently than he does. So I'm full of adrenalin sitting there in the back seat of the Moonbuggy and my legs shake when I get off. It's like the tandem was re-invented. Afterwards I'm back at the workshop and check out the machinery, which leaves me in awe. Ralf is the next person to take me around and show me the next green machine with a big drill. It's a lathe. Again, after a small briefing, I'm allowed to show my newly acquired skills. I drill a big hole in a piece of aluminum, turn phases and engrail the surface. I don't even have a boilersuit like all the others, but I'm proud of the finished part that is spit out by the machine, steaming.

After all these new impressions on that first evening, I was off to bed and crashed.

Photo gallery
working: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spaceeducation/sets/72157623659344100/

training: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spaceeducation/sets/72157623532378909/
city tour: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spaceeducation/sets/72157623659323832/

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