Last night's isolated showers made some areas of the desert muddy. This means trouble for Team E's CanSat rover which uses sponge tires. They try to make last minute modifications to their rover. Mutta gains a new-found appreciation for all the engineers and staff that allow astronauts to be launched safely into space. After the competition ends and the results are in, Mutta gets an unexpected call from the winning team's boss.
Sea Diver and Space Driver
Team E has to act quick
Because of isolated showers last night, the desert where the Comeback Competition course is muddy in some areas. This means trouble for Team E's rover, since it uses sponge tires. Pico drives Mutta and Serika quickly back to the hotel to find any useful materials. They have 20 minutes before the draw is done to determine the order which the teams launch their CanSat. After they know when their turn is, they will decide how to best modify their CanSat with the materials they have in the time before their launch. Larry and Vincent have informed all the ASCAN teams about the ground conditions due to the rain. Vincent comments how it is unfortunate that Team E (Mutta's team) keeps running into problems. Since Team E used sponge tires, if the sponges get too wet or muddy, it could slow the rover and also run out the battery faster.
In the storage room
When it comes time for the draw, they send Amanti to draw for them. The is because Amanti is a fortune teller, so they think this will give them good luck. Kenji, Nitta and Ena try wrapping the tires in aluminum foil, but when they try to compress the tire to fit inside the rocket tube, the tire does not expand again. It is important that the tires expand to give the rover more speed and ability to go over obstacles, so the aluminum foil is a no-go. Arriving at the hotel, Serika goes up to check Mutta's room, while Mutta has the janitor show him to the storage room. While searching for materials, Mutta realizes that this whole test of building a CanSat, from the programming, designing the parachute and rover, having a set budget and deadline, is exactly what NASA does for a space mission where they launch astronauts into space with a rocket. So really the Comeback Competition is an abbreviated spaceflight routine!
Team E loads their CanSat into a rocket
Mutta grabs a silicone sealant and meets back with Pico and Serika to they drive back to the NASA building next to the competition location (where the teams have been working on building their CanSat). Amanti apologizes, their team is 6th to launch out of 15 teams. The first 4 teams launched their rovers, but one rover got stuck in the mud, ran out of battery and was 1.2km from the goal. Team C's fly-back CanSat is up next, they are confident that they will win, since ground conditions don't affect their CanSat. Unfortunately something goes wrong their their flight controls, the wind blows their CanSat away and lands 3.6km from the goal, setting them in last place.
Pieco and Hibito
By applying a small layer of silicone sealant to their sponge tires, it helps the tires protect against mud, while also retaining its elasticity so it can fit inside the rocket, and expand when it lands. At the last minute they decide to name their rover "Pieco" (since it is the result of work with Team E and Pico). Mutta also adds a lego astronaut that the found in the storage room to the rover. The launch is exciting as Team E watches their CanSat take to the skies. The parachute opens successfully and the rover lands safely. Pico suggested to name the lego astronaut Hibito. Team E catches up with their rover to watch its progress. It successfully makes it through a muddy area, and navigates around a large boulder before it's battery runs out 200 meters away from the goal. At the end of the competition, Team E placed 5th overall, and 2nd among the ASCAN teams.
Fukuda and Mutta
In first place was a team from a private Japanese company. Their rover was the only rover that reached the goal, and did so very quickly too. One of the winning team members approaches Mutta after the results are announced. He explains that he is a fan, and it was their boss that ordered them to enter the competition expecting them to win, considering that their company specializes in these things. Just then he gets a phone call from his boss, asking to speak with Mutta. To Mutta's surprise it's Fukuda Naoto talking on the other end! The last Mutta had heard from Fukuda was that he had been hired by a private Japanese company to help build and launch Japan's first manned rocket. Mutta is happy to hear that Fukuda is doing well. Fukuda partly wanted to show them Japan's talented young engineers, while also giving Mutta confidence that when Mutta finally makes it to space, Japan will be ready to launch Mutta in their new manned rocket.
Points of Interest
- There are 5 ASCAN (astronaut candidate) teams in total (A through E) consisting of 6 members each. Team C was the only team that did not use a rover, but a fly-back CanSat, so they are unaffected by the ground conditions.
- The prize for winning the CanSat is $20 000.
- "Names help you understand that, as engineers, we're responsible for astronauts lives." Pico Norton
- Comeback Competition results: 1st Team Swing-by from a private Japanese company; 2nd Team Balut from Ural State Technical University; and 3rd ASCAN's Team A.
- Fukuda had participated in JAXA's astronaut selection exams, and was even in Mutta's team for a section of the exam. But unlike Mutta, Fukuda ultimately did not pass and move on to become an astronaut.