Mars rovers just keep on going
Driven by maxon motor, of course!
When NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity Mars exploration rovers successfully landed on the Red Planet in January 2004, it was hoped that each would keep going for about three months and would cover a distance of a few hundred metres. The fact that they are still going, three years later, is perhaps not so much of a surprise to the people at maxon motor. Each rover features 39 of that company’s famously dependable motors.
maxon had already provided the drive motors for the Sojourner rover in 1997, and was heavily involved again in NASA’s current Mars expedition which began in June 2003. The plan was for two identical rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, to explore different regions of Mars to find out more about its geological conditions. One of their key tasks has been to look for signs of the existence of water.
NASA’s decision to use maxon motors was based on their excellent performance in the Pathfinder rover, as well as their extremely high efficiency level – 80 to 90% – which far exceeds other motors of this type.
The motors themselves are standard products, with diameters of 20 and 25 mm, and only needed minor modifications to deal with the extremely harsh conditions. The equipment had to be able to withstand enormous temperature changes on the surface of Mars – which can range from around -120°C to +25°C – as well as the vibrations and the special atmosphere.
The motors are used for operation of the robotic arms, rock drills and steering mechanisms, for controlling the cameras and for turning the six high-tech wheels that drive the heavy rovers (each weighing nearly 180 kg) around the planet’s surface.
Today’s rovers are much larger than their predecessor, the Sojourner, and with an average speed of around 1 cm/s (36 m/h) they are also around ten times faster. They were designed to travel up to 40 metres per “sol”, or Martian day. The Sojourner needed the whole of its 90-day mission to cover the same distance.
Further information on the missions can be found at:
For further information on maxon’s products and services, contact maxon motor uk ltd, Maxon House, Hogwood Lane, Finchampstead, Berks, RG40 4QW. Tel: 01189 733337. Fax: 01189 737472.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the maxon website at www.maxonmotor.co.uk.
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