As the rover “Curiosity” completed its journey of over 350 million miles to land on Mars on Monday, the shouts, hugs, and tears of the NASA team were a touching embodiment of pride and achievement.
But they weren’t the only proud ones. The components for the car-sized rover were supplied by a handful of different companies, coming together to form one $2.5 billion, super-cool gadget.
- Aeroshell by Lockheed Martin: The aeroshell encased the rover and its parachute during the journey to Mars. During entry, it reacted chemically with Mars’s atmosphere and, rather than absorb heat, released it as gas and kept the rover safe.
- Tanks by ATK: Propellant tanks stored propellant for the “thrusters” that helped the Curiosity navigate along its journey and, after entering the atmosphere at over 13,000 mph, land on the surface of Mars.
- A generator by Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne: A thermoelectric generator provides heat and electricity to the Curiosity and can withstand the vacuum in space and the harsh surface of Mars, with temperature fluctuations and radiation. With no moving parts, the generator is designed to last 14 years. This is its first use.
- Specimen storage by Honeybee Robotics: A device for storing and moving samples of rock, atmosphere, and soil collected by the Curiosity. When the samples are analyzed, they are sealed with a force of up to 250 pounds.
- Bearings by Timken: Bearings help the Curiosity’s moving parts slide into place and move samples around. Timken also created bearings for two previous Mars rover missions.
- Wire insulator by DUNMORE: Insulating tape protects the wiring on the Curiosity from electromagnetic waves, radiation, and extreme temperatures on Mars (-199 F to 80 F). It also ensures that the different electric signals inside the Curiosity don’t interfere with each other. These tapes were used in many other space programs, including the Hubble Telescope and the International Space Station.