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Jonathan's Rover Diary Day 0 1 2 3 4

Day Three

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 cameras)!

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.

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Jonathan builds his rover
Scientist Diaries

Water or wheels? How did the other members of the Rough Science team cope with the first challenge? Read their diaries to find out: