Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mars Rover: Lego Edition

I have always been a huge fan of Lego.  I am also a huge fan of space exploration.  So when I was looking for things to keep me busy during the New Years break from work, what better than building a Lego Mars Rover?  So today that is exactly what I did.

For those not familiar with the rovers, there are two rovers currently active on the surface of mars - Spirit and Opportunity.  The rovers are identical, and are essentially autonomous robots who receive orders from earth and decide for themselves how best to accomplish them.  They landed on opposite sides of the planet in early summer 2003, and had a 90 day mission to explore the surface of Mars.  Now they are over  6 years past the end of their original mission they are still going strong.  Spirit is currently stuck in the sand and acting as a stationary platform, but Opportunity is still mobile and active. I think NASA got their moneys worth out of these guys.

I bought the Lego kit off of ebay just before Christmas.  The kit itself is quite extensive with over 850 parts, most of them really small (even for lego), and is one of the most complex Lego models I have seen.  The model is also fairly interactive: each of the wheels steer in unison,  the top mast moves swivels and leans back for easy storage, the solar panels retract, the dish antennae rotate, and the instrumentation arm moves, all using gears, elastics, and spring loaded assemblies.  The build took me just over 4 hours to complete.

The model itself is no longer made so it is a rare model now.  Given that it holds interest to me on many levels, I am glad I bought it, and had a great time building it.  It will enjoy many years of life adorning my office, assuming I can keep Zeke away from it :)