No space mission can succeed without communication,
so our second set of Rough Science space challenges
are all based around making contact. Jonathan
and Kathy have to come up with
a way of communicating that doesn't use sound waves
- because in the vacuum of space, there's nothing for
them to move through.
It took two years and a million pounds to develop a
pen for use in space - one that would work in zero gravity.
Ellen and Mike
have no money and just three days to come up with their
Iain's challenge is very different.
He has to find a way to communicate with aliens! NASA
faced this problem when they sent the Pioneer probe
out into deep space. Their solution was a plaque with
crucial information about the creatures (us) who had
sent the craft out into space. So Iain has to come up
with a plaque that would communicate information about
the Rough Science team to aliens.
Kathy and Jonathan come up with a truly extraordinary
Rough Science way of communicating without sound waves.
They find a way to carry a voice on a sunbeam! Their
technique involves getting a voice to "wiggle"
a light beam, then reflecting the wiggling light beam
to a receiver which turns the light beam back into sound.
Down on Earth, pens rely on gravity to deliver ink
to the nib. But in space there's no gravity, so Mike
and Ellen need some other force to push ink to the nib.
Although we can't take them into space to test their
pen, there is another way to find out if they've succeeded;
if their pen can write upside down then it will prove
it isn't using gravity to make the ink flow. Mike comes
up with two designs; a pen that uses capillary action,
and a ballpoint pen with a balloon inside it to put
pressure on the ink. And Ellen goes hunting amongst
the plant - and animal! - communities in her quest to
make a workable ink.
Iain's plaque to communicate with aliens is inspired
by the local geology - he decides to make it out of
plaster of Paris because there should be gypsum in the
hills around the mine, and gypsum is the raw material
for plaster of Paris. The trouble is, his geology lets
him down; what he thinks is gypsum turns out to be something
else. He has to rely on some clever chemistry to get
his challenge back on track. But he eventually comes
up with an ingenious design for his plaque.