Eight months after the project was approved, the Mars Exploration Rover has been completed and deployed.
The Rover project was first assigned to Jakob by the Ward family in December 2004 for his ninth birthday. The project got off to a good start with Jakob and Dad making significant progress during the initial weeks.
But as time passed, and hundreds of components remained to be sorted, other priorities caused delays, and soon Dad found himself working on the Rover project alone. However, all work was halted by a congressional committee consisting of Mom. "The project leader is Jakob," said Mom, "and work can only proceed with his presence."
This decree resulted in a 6-month delay. But work commenced again in July 2005, this time with Jakob and Mom engineering the unit.
"I'm a little miffed," said Dad, who seemed to have been cut out of the picture. But Jakob insisted he had no ill intentions. "I was younger then," said Jakob, commenting on the reason for the long delay.
The Rover took shape quickly during the final weeks of July, with the final solar panels installed over the Civic holiday weekend.
The project was not without technical hurdles. Missing pieces were the main culprit, along with faulty technical interpretations of the plans. In one case, a critical missing piece that threatened to delay the project once again was discovered not on the floor, but installed in the gyro-modulus retention unit, instead of where it belonged, which was somewhere else.
The Exploration Rover was deployed and tested extensively, both in the lab and in the field. Aside from one stiff gear in the satellite tracking assembly, the rover unit is fully functional and expected to occupy an honoured spot on the toy shelf.
"I'd do it all again," said a beaming Jakob, "but I wouldn't take as long."