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驾驶全球数一数二的巨型车是甚么感觉

更新时间:2018-8-13 19:37:22 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Driving one of the world's largest vehicles
驾驶全球数一数二的巨型车是甚么感觉

Within the next two years, Nasa plans to blast the first of its Space Launch System (SLS) rockets on a 384,400 km (238,855 mile) uncrewed voyage around the Moon. With plans for lunar space stations, Moon bases and Mars missions, the future of America’s state-funded astronaut programme depends on its success.

美国太空总署(Nasa)计划在两年内发射首个SLS火箭(即太空发射系统,是从航天飞机演变而来的超重型运载火箭),飞行384400公里(238855英里)达到月球后绕月飞行,无人驾驶。这枚SLS火箭肩负着月球空间站、月球基地和与火星相关的多项任务,美国国家宇航员项目进展如何就靠它了。

Although the SLS is brand new, the multi-billion-dollar 98m-tall (322 ft) launcher will begin its journey at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a vehicle that is more than 50 years old. And, for the team charged with conveying the rocket the seven kilometres (4.3 miles) to the launchpad, the pressure is on.

SLS火箭耗资几十亿美元,高度达98米(322英尺),计划于美国佛罗里达州肯尼迪航天中心发射。火箭虽是刚刚问世,但运送火箭到发射台的运输车已经有50多年了。这段7公里(4.3英里)的路程对负责运输任务的团队而言,压力不小。

“There’s a great sense of pride carrying America’s space programme on your back,” says Bob Myers, one of the elite team of drivers for Nasa’s pair of giant crawler-transporters – among the largest land vehicles ever built. “We have one rocket, we have one shot and we don’t want to mess that shot up.”

美国太空总署共有两台履带式运输车,体型之大在全世界的陆上车辆中都首屈一指。 驾驶员们都是精英,迈尔斯(Bob Myers)就是其中一位,他说:“能参与美国航天工程事业,是莫大的荣耀。火箭只有一个,发射机会也只有一次,当然不想搞砸。”

The four-tracked crawlers were built in 1965 to carry the Saturn 5 rocket that took astronauts to the Moon. They were adapted in the 70s for the Space Shuttle. Now, one of these has been refurbished and strengthened to convey the SLS. Despite some modernisation, the fundamental design of the 40-metre-long (131 feet), 35 metre-wide (114 feet), 2,700 tonne (six million pound) giant tracked vehicle remains the same.

这种运输车有四组履带,于1965年制造,当时是为了运输实施宇航员登月计划的“土星5号” (Saturn V)运载火箭;曾在1970年代进行改造,用于运输航天飞机,如今又对其中一辆进行翻新升级,用来运输SLS火箭。车体长40米(131英尺),宽35米(114英尺),重2700吨(600万磅),虽然经过现代化改造,但主体设计结构没变。

“We brag sometimes that the crawlers were made with a slide rule and not a computer,” says Myers, who has been driving the crawler-transporters for more than 35 years. “They were built better – overbuilt – than many vehicles today and as a result they’re very reliable.”

迈尔斯驾驶这种运输车已经超过35年,他说:“我们有时会吹嘘说,这两辆车可不是电脑设计的,而是用计算尺手工测绘的,比现在很多车都造得好,甚至好得夸张,因此非常可靠。”

Their vital statistics are certainly impressive. The crawlers are powered by two diesel engines which drive generators supplying electricity to 16 traction motors. The tracks in each corner are made up of twin treads with 57 shoes, and a system of sensors and jacks keeps the upper platform – and hence the rocket – level during the journey along the crushed rock roadway and up the ramp to the launch pad. The route from the vehicle assembly building also includes corners, which means the tracks need to pivot.

运输车各项重要参数都很突出。两台柴油发动机的供电量能满足16台牵引电机,车体四角各有一组履带,每组都有两个履带链共57个履带板,有传感器和起重装置确保所承托的台面在火箭送往发射台的石子路上,以及从舷梯运上发射台的过程中保持水平——从而保持火箭平稳。从运输车的组装车间到发射基地也有拐角,所以履带得能转弯。

“We have a team of contractors who prepare the crawler-way every time we’re ready to roll,” says Crawler project manager, John Giles. “As the crawler moves along, it crushes the rock - which flies around as it’s pulverised.”

贾尔斯(John Giles)是履带运输车负责人,他说:“每次作业我们都会请一组工人为它开道,运输车开过会把石头碾碎,四处飞溅。”

The machines are controlled from cabs jutting out at the front and back. When Myers first took the controls in 1982 to carry a Space Shuttle to the launch pad, he admits it was a nerve-wracking experience. “I was pretty nervous, when you’re carrying a rocket there’s an obvious sense of power,” he says. “It’s not like driving a Volkswagen.”

车体前后各有一个突出来的驾驶舱,迈尔斯承认, 1982年他第一次驾驶运输车把航天飞机送去发射台时,可费了不少劲。“我特别紧张,载着个火箭明显有种威严感,跟开辆大众可不一样。”

“It’s scary at first and if anything goes wrong, it not something we’d want to talk about for a very long time,” Giles adds. “It takes time to get used to the extra pressure and stress.”

贾尔斯也说:“一开始很害怕,一旦出错,可就是长久讳莫如深的大错,得花点时间来适应这种巨大的压力。”

Although the driver is supported by a team of observers with radios walking alongside to monitor the crawler’s progress, there are in fact parallels with driving a car. The driver has a tiny six-inch (15cm) diameter steering wheel, speed dial and a brake pedal. All commands from the relatively simple controls are fed into the newly-upgraded computer system to ensure the smooth operation of the hydraulic pumps that activate the 1960s mechanical components.

运输火箭途中,会有一队配备电台的观察员跟在旁边监测运输车的情况。除此之外,驾驶运输车跟一般开车也差不多。方向盘很袖珍,直径只有6英尺(15厘米),也有车速表和刹车。这辆1960年代建造的运输车刚刚升级了电脑系统,向它下达的指令相对简单,要保证液压泵能顺畅驱动车辆。

“It’s fairly simplistic but it has everything you need,” says Myers. “There are a lot of curves and places to slow down [on the journey] but it’s a matter of experience and use of your observers that help you operate the vehicle.”

迈尔斯说:“驾驶室非常精简,但该有的都有。(运输途中)有许多弯道和需要减速的位置,要靠经验以及观察员的帮助来驾驶。”

Moving a giant rocket isn’t something you can get done before lunch. It takes at least seven hours to complete the journey to the launch pad. The drivers swap every couple of hours along the way but the crawler keeps on going.

运输大型火箭可不是一时半会儿就能完成,运到发射台至少需要7个小时,驾驶员过几小时会轮换一下,但运输车一直在走。

“We don’t stop until we’re on top of the pad and have the launcher sat down,” Myers says. “We don’t want to run into weather and that’s why we try to get the operation done as quickly and safely as possible.”

“我们会一鼓作气将火箭运上发射台并安装妥当,力争又快又好地完成任务,免得夜长梦多。”迈尔斯说。

That a machine so vast can move at less than a mile an hour (1.6km/h) is one of the greatest achievements of the original engineers. “It’s not about how fast it can go – it’s about how slow it can go,” says Myers. “It has the capability for positioning and docking its platform on the launch pad to within half an inch and on command it can move an eighth of an inch.”

运输车如此巨大但行进速度可以低于每小时1英里(1.6公里/时),也是原设计者们一个厉害之处。迈尔斯说:“不在于能多快,而在于能多慢。运输车还能将承托的台面放到发射台上,在不到半英尺的地方进行对接,如有需要还可以仅仅移动八分之一英尺的距离。”

Try doing that in your Volkswagen.

开着你的大众汽车试一试。

So, do they ever mess it up? “No, we don’t mess up,” says Myers emphatically. “We put a lot of controls in place to prevent that, with drivers and back-up drivers, observers and back-up observers – we do everything we can to make sure the rocket gets safely to the pad.”

有没有搞砸过呢?“没有,我们不会搞砸,”迈尔斯肯定地说:“我们有很多措施来确保万无一失,包括关于驾驶员和后备驾驶员的,跟车观察员和后备观察员的,竭尽所能确保火箭安全抵达发射台。”

With 50 years and some 3,000 km (2,000 miles) on the clock, Nasa expects the crawlers to be in operation for at least another three decades. With the latest refurbishment complete, testing is well underway for the first SLS mission. And, just to be certain they’ve got their calculations right, before the strengthened crawler is used to carry the new rocket, it will be tried out with an equivalent weight in concrete beams.

运输车已经服役了50年,公里数3000左右(2000英里),美国太空总署希望至少能再用30年。运输车刚刚翻新完,马上要测试运输首个SLS火箭。为确保计算准确,在新版运输车实际运送新火箭之前会搭载等重的水泥柱进行测试。

All being well, the crawler will once again be doing the job it was originally designed for: moving rockets that take people to the Moon.

如果一切顺利,运输车又可以重操旧业,实现设计初衷——运输载人登月火箭。

“It’ll be a great day,” says Myers. “It can’t come soon enough.”

迈尔斯说:“运输SLS火箭可是个大日子,希望那天能尽早到来。”

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