Climbers, hitch hikers and heat beyond belief

Rather you than me I thought as the Spanish team member continued her soldering of solar panels for her team’s tether climber machine. But at least the young student from Barcelona got to work inside on a very hot Sunday, while others toiled out in the sweltering heat setting up the crane and tether. 
It was day three of the $200,000 NASA Centennial Challenge for a tether climbing machine that may one day lead to a space elevator. Day one and two had been held at the X Prize Cup event at Las Cruces International airport. However day three was being held at the “Fairground”, which means large open area a few miles from a prison.
Fortunately I never saw any “hitch hikers” in standard US prison clothing, which is generally bright orange, and instead was quite happy to wander round the Fairground watching the teams putting the finishing touches to their climbers.Below a member of the Barcelona team checks his solar panels’ electrical circuits.


Sadly it became all too apparent in the morning, about 10am, that the wind was only going to get stronger. Whipping the tether round the wind made connecting the climbers’ rollers to the tether problematic and delayed the whole set up process. To tell you the truth waiting for the climbers to be ready was arduous. As one fellow reporter described it, “it’s like watching paint dry.” In the blistering heat of New Mexico I can confirm its not much fun.


After three hours of waiting I decided that things didn’t look good, and that I would need to apply a lot more sun cream if I wanted to stick around for much longer. Sure enough phoning the teams later on from the hotel they confirmed the wind had got the better of them and the organisers had just run out of time to allow the microwave powered team, Punkworks, to try their climber.

It was a real shame, microwave power would have delivered more energy and could have meant a winning result, and its likely that a real space elevator would use such a technology. But it wasn’t to be and so I went back to stuffing the washing machine with my pants.

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