Today is the day we wire up the remote control part
of the electrics. After finding that I had correctly
wired up the relays but in the wrong order from the
LED control signals (!) it all seemed to be responding
very well. It was possible for example to whistle at
the machine and it would take off in various directions!
One thing that came out of these experiments was that
the noise of the motors sometimes drowned out the signal
tones, which explained why the motors where not always
as smoothly operating as they should have been.
Before the testing of the Rover out on location it
was time for Iain, Ellen, Kathy and Mike to show the
waters that they had collected and for poor Iain to
do the drink test (unfortunately several times for the
The final test – in the hot seat
We drove all the kit down to a part of the desert that
really does resemble the pictures sent back from the
planet Mars! It is a clay-like muddy surface having
slight undulations – small hills about a meter
or two high and upon them lie randomly spread about
rocks and small boulders. It is as if rain or water
flowing over has smoothed the surface but left the larger
boulders in place.
I set up ‘Mission Control’ and we were
allowed a TV monitor to show the picture sent back by
the rover and picked up by the receiver. We stayed by
the kit while the Alexis (the director) and co took
the rover to the start of a course set up nearby on
the other side of a high hill. We Roughies gather by
mission control. Even though it was the end of the day
it was very, very hot.
When the crew where ready they turned on the rover's
camera and we started to see the landscape that we were
to try and navigate using our remote control rover.
This was hilarious! I pressed the control for forward
and the rover lurched forward – this was very
exciting! Of course a real Mars Rover would take about
15 minutes to respond because of the distance the signals
have to cover. We were lucky that we didn’t have
that problem but it was still amazingly difficult to
see what you should be doing. Also, it was impossible
to see what sort of terrain the wheels had to deal with
just a few centimetres from the front, and so the rover
got stuck quite often. A reverse signal sometimes solved
the problems but of course the camera was pointing forward
and so we were moving backward - blind.
Eventually the poor old power drill motors where struggling
with the terrain and the batteries were running out
with all our to-ing and fro-ing. Finally I hadn’t
thought to check that the ratchets on the drills were
at their maximum torque settings and I think this lead
to the rover getting stuck a few times!
On the way we found the following things on ‘Mars’:
a jug of water, flowers and finally an end race ticker
tape. All this made for a rather dramatic and often
hilarious ending for the first programme of this new series.