He's famed in Hong Kong for helping design its contribution to space discovery - tools for the Mir space station and European Mars missions. Ng Tze-chuen recalls in our weekly series the highs and lows of 30 years working with celebrated scientists, battling bureaucracy ... and being tailed by spies Planets may travel in an ellipse, but I was going full circle. After getting an informal nod from Farouk El Baz of Boston University and an influential adviser to Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), I began trying to put together a team to develop a robotic rover to explore hidden shafts in the great Giza pyramid. Travelling across Asia looking for a university with the right engineers proved to be a nightmare. Suffice to say our present rival is a team that I originally helped to organise. So I went back to my old friend, Shaun Whitehead, who was the chief British scientist in charge of the robotic arm for the Beagle 2 Mars mission. Mr Whitehead, it turned out, was an amateur Egyptologist and knew a lot about the pyramid. He knew all about the great pharaoh, Khufu, who built the pyramid, the mysterious shafts and chambers inside, and robotic explorations on two previous missions by German engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink in 1993 and by National Geographic in 2002. So when I told him about my meeting with Professor Hawass, the powerful SCA head, Mr Whitehead did not need any convincing. With his experience in constructing sophisticated planetary robotics, he said building a pyramid rover would be relatively straightforward. I told him we should follow my blueprint of sending a microrobotic insect equipped with a pinhole camera to crawl up hidden shafts and go behind a limestone door to search for more secret doors and chambers. The idea derived from what we did with Beagle 2's mole which was deployed by a tether to search for samples under soil. We both agreed that our design must protect the walls of the shafts, which had been scratched by track-belted rovers on the two previous missions. Mr Whitehead made a robotic insect and beamed back the image to me via a webcam. 'What, a grasshopper?' I asked him. It could climb, change directions easily and grip a small pin. That was a good start. Early this year, we took the prototype to Cairo to show Professor Hawass. Taxi drivers in Cairo are every bit as crazy as those in Hong Kong. The one that drove me from my hotel to Cairo University was crazier than most. He threw my precious robot and luggage on the roof rack without tying anything down. This was obviously risky on the bumpy narrow streets on which we would be travelling. When I asked if this was safe, the taxi driver gave me the thumbs up and a smile, and pointed at a motorcycle with a washing machine on the back of the seat - this is life in Egypt. By a miracle, we made it to Cairo University. I was a nervous wreck by then, not only because of the ride but because I had to put on a demonstration for Professor Hawass, Professor El Baz and a few other engineering experts from the university. Professor Hawass was very impressed. He served us a cup of Egyptian coffee, which soothed my nerves. After the demonstration, Professor Hawass said he would name our project Djedi. He then proceeded to tell the story about Khufu and the magician. The story goes that Khufu got hold of the magician, Djedi, to ask him about the secret documents of Thoth, the god of wisdom, to help him design his pyramid. Djedi knew everything about the secret chambers of Thoth, but he did not reveal any secrets. Obviously, Professor Hawass thought our project was going to unlock the secrets buried deep inside the chambers and shafts, and behind hidden doors. When I went home, Mr Whitehead said we needed a bigger team of engineers with really good practical experience in designing a robotic rover. Being a Hongkonger, I suggested Oxbridge. But Mr Whitehead had a better idea. We approached Robert Richardson and his group of young engineers at Manchester University. They were so young and ingenious and soon came up with a brilliant prototype. I am not at liberty to disclose any details of their design as we are still in a competition. We are gearing up for the final testing outside the pyramid by the end of this year.