The ASCANs next task is to design a CanSat, a rocket with a parachute and a rover as the payload. Each Team has an engineer acting as support. Team E's support is an older engineer named Pico Norton, who isn't very helpful so far. Which is a shame because Pico knows a thing or two about designing parachutes. Pico was in charge of designing the parachute for the pod which Hibito will be riding in to re-enter Earth's atmosphere in a few weeks. We learn more about Pico's past and why he became a drunk.
Promise to Drink
3 astronauts planned for re-entry
At the bar, Pico and Vincent enjoy drinks together. They overhear on the news that 3 of the 6 astronauts that went to the Moon will be returning to Earth in a few weeks (Hibito, Damien and Linda). The "Orion" pod will be used for their re-entry into the atmosphere. This is causing some unease because, on a previous mission, Brian Jay and 2 other astronauts had died in an Orion upon re-entry due to a parachute malfunction. Pico tries to brush it off as them trying to build hype for the re-entry, but Vincent reminds Pico that it is was Pico who designed the new parachute, so really the pressure is on him. Also Vincent does not approve of Pico's drinking habits, saying that Pico is drowning out his fears.
Pico takes a nap
The next day Team E (Mutta's team) on the way to their workroom, they overhear an engineer for another team giving advice on what materials to use to build the rover. Mutta is disappointed that their team had to get stuck with a drunk like Pico. As they sit down as a team, Kenji asks Pico, who is lazing around on a nearby couch, for advice on where they should start. Pico is no help so they are on their own. Team E was given $600 for rover production. They begin by reading all the rules carefully. The rover they build must fit inside the rocket, launch into the sky, drop to the ground successfully with the help of a parachute, and then navigate to a goal flag all on its own. Serika notes that each team got a different amount of funding which was based on the results of survival training (first place getting $800, decreasing by $50 increments). On top of having an unsupportive engineer, Team E now has another disadvantage.
Over lunch, Kenji and Mutta talk with an engineer advising another Team and who is familiar with Pico. They learn that the engineers do not work for NASA, but a company called Denver, which acts like a subcontractor for NASA. Denver mainly worked on the Orion re-entry pod, and Pico was in charge of the team designing the parachute deployment system. Mutta is surprised and wonders how a mess like Pico could be in charge of something so important. No doubt Mutta is worried about his brother's safety as he re-enters in the Orion.
Brian is upset by the results
Coming back from lunch, Serika printed out a blueprint for a rover. The blueprint was uploaded to the internet by a participant in last year's CanSat Competition. Pico lets them go ahead following the blueprint, but thinks cynically "idiots, a blueprint won't finish the job, even something as simple as a parachute is hard to design". It turns out that Pico was also temporarily in charge of the parachute deployment system when Brian Jay used the pod. Pico remembers when they were stress testing the Orion, it crashed and Brian got upset. Pico explained that they intentionally loaded the Orion to see how it would handle under pressure, and thus a crash was a possibility. Pico said he wanted nothing more than to share a drink with the astronauts after they land safely back on Earth.
Mutta and Kenji also learned from the other engineer that it was only recently that NASA started having parachute problems. All the previous engineers who had worked on the successful Apollo missions had since left. And even though their blueprints are followed exactly, they still ran into problems. It was Pico who had designed a workable parachute system, he continued to run tests to improve it, but then a mistake was made.
"If we build something based off a failure..."
After looking at the blueprints for a while, Team E decides to start working. Amanti and Ena decide to handle programming the rover's self-navigation system. Mutta is in charge of building the actual rover, so he and the guys go to the hardware store to buy materials. At the end of the day Team E seem to have worked out a plan and are on their way. But Mutta raises some concerns. If they follow the blueprint, since it uses fairly expensive materials, they will use up $500, allowing them to make only 1 rover, leaving no room for error. Mutta says they should make 2 rovers and assume that one will crash. "If you build something based on a failure, you're bound to come up with something good."
"It's on me Brian..."
Pico perks up at this comment. Pico had to explain the test, which resulted in a crash to the head engineer at NASA, his superior. Pico determined that although they were stress testing it, and expecting a possible crash, the crash was actually due to human error. One of the people in charge of folding the parachute was left-handed, resulting in the parachute not unfolding properly. The NASA engineer does not take this excuse, the test cost them millions of dollars more because it crashed, and as a result NASA decides to go with NewAir (another subcontractor) instead of Denver (which Pico works for) to design the parachute system since they offered a cheaper deal. When Brian hears the news from Pico, Brain still promises to drink with him after re-entry. To answer Mutta's question, whether Pico was responsible for Brian's death, the answer is no. The NASA engineer was short sighted and didn't trust Pico. That night when the Orion crashed with Brian on board, Pico went to the bar and drank alone.
Points of Interest
- Pico orders a "Wild Turkey" a brand of bourbon whiskey, to drink at the bar.
- Pico likes talking about "never knowing when the world will end" and his "switch being [on/off]"
- In the flashback where Pico tries appealing to the NASA engineer he shouts, "don't let money cloud your judgment, this is people's lives we are talking about!" Just like Pico, each Team has to make the best decisions with how to spend their money and build the best rover and parachute for their CanSat.