This week, as sports fans around the world cheer spectacular human achievements at the Olympic Games in London, science fans are also cheering for spectacular achievements even farther from home—perhaps most notably the successful deployment of the Mars Science Laboratory rover “Curiosity” in Gale Crater on Mars. Curiosity is the largest rover ever launched by NASA, and it will be used to determine whether Mars is, or ever has been, hospitable to microbial life.
In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit Teledyne DALSA has some skin in this game: Curiosity (like Spirit and Opportunity before it) uses CCDs built in our wafer fab for its navigation and hazard avoidance cameras. These 1k x 1k frame transfer devices were designed by JPL and fabricated at our Bromont foundry. The hazard avoidance cameras are installed on each corner of the rover and the 3D stereoscopic navigation cameras are part of the rover’s camera mast. Curiosity will use images generated by these cameras to map out the shape of the terrain around it and find its way across the Martian landscape, negotiating obstacles up to 65 centimeters (25 inches) high. For more detail on the Navcams, Hazcam, and the image sensors that power them, check out the case study on our website, “Curiosity Rover Uses CCD Sensors to Navigate Surface of Mars.”
Teledyne is full of people (and I’m one of them) who get their geek on for the groundbreaking advances in science and technology that initiatives like the MSL bring. I can’t wait to see what Curiosity finds. I’m also proud of the Teledyne contributions to the mission—beyond Teledyne DALSA, some of our sister companies in the Teledyne organization provided absolutely crucial components:
- Teledyne Energy Systems developed the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) system that powers the rover. By converting the heat of plutonium decay into electricity, it can provide 125 watts of electrical power for up to 14 years.
- Teledyne Microelectronics manufactured two complex radio frequency (RF) modules for the terminal descent and landing units that played a major role in the last critical 30 seconds of the lander’s approach to Mars.
- Teledyne Relays supplied electromechanical relays used on Curiosity’s communication suite, as it did for the earlier Spirit and Opportunity rovers.
- Teledyne Impulse supplied electromechanical power transfer switches that were used on the Atlas V rocket that launched the mission.
If you’re looking for more on the Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity, visit http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/. NASA does a great job of catering to the geeks in all of us.