Heading for the moon.. with a stop-by in Budapest!

If your following us on our social media channels you know that we are still alive and kicking however you probably won't notice this from our blogging frequency which is almost a flat line except for a few announcements. I want to use the impeding team summit this week in Budapest as a reason to change this. So here it comes the first real blog post from our team in quite some time!

Whats up with the Part-Time Scientists?

Ever since we got accepted for for the Google Lunar XPRIZE Terrestrial Milestone Prizes - a super cool bonus competition - our teams days and nights only seem to consist of test plans, site negotiations and pretty awesome hardware development. By only showing you updates of things that we've finished we might give you the impression that everything just "works" however a whole lot of things goes wrong in our mission hardware development, with minor crisises being handled on a day by day basis. It's the simple things that cause most of the trouble. Want an example? Let's start with rapid manufacturing!

Image: Asimov's new head 3D printed for integration tests

If you follow our team you know that we are lovers of 3D printing or better "rapid manufacturing". From day one we are using it for the past 4 years for almost all our prototypes. We know a great deal about the capabilities as well as the limitations. Thus we should have seen it coming when we ordered a full 3D printed unit of all parts of our news CHU - Camera Head Unit for Asimov to test the hardware integration. The Camera Head Unit is the heart for all of Asimov's optics, sensors and only a few rad hard electronic parts. When assembling the test unit and trying to capture a first set of test images we immediately where faced with a dilemma. If you look closely at the photo above you can already see what happened. The original parts of course where meant to be printed in Aluminum. (Yes! - printed - you've read right but more on this in a future posting!) However to keep the costs and production times low we've ordered them as standard laser sintered plastic parts. They provide enough strength to hold everything in place however they are also somewhat transparent. Thus light easily made it's way into the very inert of our optics. When light enters a camera from the side and shines in between the optics and sensors you end up with a totally ruined image contrast. As our main goal was to test and demonstrate the image quality of our camera we where faced with a dilemma. We now had all the parts we needed but they obviously turned out be translucent. To our rescue came Thomas a member of our team who is normally doing software work but got the pretty cool hobby of building Warhammer 4k figures. He helped us coat and paint the inside of this early Camera Head prototype. It was a weekend well spend and a whole lot of fun!


Image: once painted and coated the parts provided sufficient enough cover for our optics and image sensors


Sometimes you just need to grab the right bag!

Another thing that went awry and caused us quite a headache was the sole fact that a member of our team forgot to pack the right bag for the very important first qualification test of our camera. You should think it's easy being well prepared if what is ahead is really important but never the less how well prepared you think you are you end up working till late at night finishing something. Early in the morning you grab all your stuff and head out for whatever the most important thing is you've been working so hard forward to. In our case we wanted to test the image quality of our camera in a very special lunar lab but Arne our optics expert forgot to pack the right ISO test charts. The good thing about such charts is that they are available for free and you can print them anywhere, the bad thing is that you need to find a printer which is good enough to beat your camera. In our case we had a very hard time as almost every printer we've found managed to print the chart but the quality was not as good as it needed to be to proof our camera is up to the task to guide a rover on the moon! We needed to improvise quite a bit to get the proof we so desperately needed. However Cameras for the moon are a pretty awesome subject and testing in a real lunar lab is even more awesome so the next blogpost will be solely dedicated towards this! Stay tuned :-)

Image: Single camera test unit - that's what we use to test optics and our electronics before going to integrate things

Ok that's it for this time now we are heading out to Budapest to meet up with all the other Google Lunar XPRIZE teams! Have a great week and read you soon. Make sure to checkout our Hell Yeah it's Rocket Science! Community on Facebook ( http://fb.me/PartTimeScientists ) and Google+ ( http://gplus.to/PTScientists ).

The PTScientists!


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