Mars Rover Design Team Update

Hanksville, UT. Friday, May 30, 2014 12:26 AM
After a successful day of testing on Wednesday, the sun and the team got up early to set up for competition Thursday. The morning was spent in the normal routine. The cooking crew made breakfast while the EE experts continued to work with the troublesome power board. Its serviceable but not performing to the expectations they intended. Still, it does what it is supposed to do.

The astronaut assistance task was the work of the day. The team left Hanksville about 11:00 a.m. for their 12:20 start time. On site, they were ready to spring into action as soon as the officials gave the green light. In the meantime, a reporter from a Salt Lake City television station interviewed CEO MIchael Brouchard and the S&T PR Lead then proceeded to get footage of MRDT as they attempted to complete the task.

The task: when time was called, MRDT sprung into action. They swarmed the truck to get antenna, rover, base station, generator, wires, and even the director’s chair in place for the task. First they had to set up their 24 ft antenna in the “martian desert”, not an easy task to stake the guide wires into the hard desert floor in gusty winds. But, with lots of effort and a couple of broken parts, they got it up in the air, a little list to the south, but in perfect position.

The other team there was struggling with just made wooden antenna mast, constructed from 2 by 6 scraps and nailed together that morning. It was a sight to see them lift it into place, get it to fall into the hole they dug in an attempt to stabilize it, the mad dash for every available rock to drop around the base, all in hopes that it would stay up. MRDT members who were not working on their team task joined in the mad rush for rock – to help (with a little self preservation involved).

Mast set up, base station set up in the back of the “official” U-Haul truck (the operators are not allowed to see the field in which the Rover operates) all was ready to go. With the green light and the timer started the little Rover rushed onto the field in search of a set of GPS coordinates. It rushed right past the stash of tools it would have to later locate and deliver to the astronauts. The Rover searched and searched, it finally located the two astronauts and the tools. It successfully transported a hammer to the first astronaut then ran out of the allotted time. But not before running over the astronaut it was helping. Apparently there is not a point deduction for killing your astronaut! With points on the board, and the most successful run up to that time, Rover was finished competing for the day. We later found that the celebrity Polish Team (our friends) dominated the event later in the day.

After lunch at the Mars Station, the team set up in another part of the desert to run through the paces in preparation for the Science Task event set for Friday. Thinking the most logical location for the Science Task is a dry wash, so we choose one of the many for the run through. After the normal start up panic (power board) the Rover was able to complete the tasks, more or less. There is a glitch with the conductivity measurements; but, the drill for soil sampling worked exceptionally well. The spectrometers are working the gas sensors (methane, ammonia, hydrogen) work. MRDT continued to practice and test as long as the batteries held out. Finally, in the early evening Rover was done for the day, so we packed up and headed home.

Thursday had a scheduled snack, ice cream from the local grocery store. The team was all sitting outside the little store, mostly sitting in the back of the truck slurping ice cream and congratulating Monica on her science group. Back to the Bates Hotel for more work before dinner. We were all surprised to look at the dinner schedule to discover this was our night out on the town. So after a couple of hours of work we all made the long walk across the street, its really the highway we came to town on – but with a car passing by only every 10 or so minutes its hard to think of it as a highway. Our long walk across the street took us to Hanksville’s Grill/Steakhouse, I guess its a steakhouse cause you can get a steak there. Its a good place to eat. Good cowboy food and lots of it. Frankly, it was a welcome break from the cooking and cleaning up routine.

After dinner, guess what, back to work. The EE’s are still working on the power board looking for the glitch that has caused so must frustration but, thankfully, has not had an adverse effect on performance. And, it seems the Rover has gained weight when set up with its science equipment. So, approaching midnight the EE’s are still fiddling with the power board, the Mechanical group has cut the weight to less than 50 kg, the IT computer/driver group is cloistered in their room staring at computer screen (they have pretty much been there every hour not out in the desert) then all work stopped as the presentation crew is giving and run through to the advisors and team. After lots of questions and comments the science presentation crew went back to work as the other team resumed their labors.

Thats it for tonight.

I am still your Friendly Neighborhood Design Center Director,