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Metals on the Mars Rover Curiosity

What Metals Make-up Curiosity?


Metals on the Mars Rover Curiosity

Side profile of the Mars rover Curiosity.

Image courtesy NASA/NPL Caltech

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission and the Curiosity Rover's arrival on the Red Planet on August 6, 2012 have been a culmination of technological research and human ingenuity in the field of materials science.

In order to negotiate the extreme conditions of space travel, atmospheric entry, landing and exploration, which involve temperatures ranging from 3,790 °F  (2,090 °C) to 131.8°F (-91°C), Curiosity and her transport vehicles were constructed using an assortment of metal and composite materials.

Here is just a snapshot of some of the metals used in the construction of Curiosity and the transport vehicle:

Metals in the Mars Rover Curiosity

Metal Use
Titanium tubing Form Curiosity's legs
Titanium springs Add cushioning within Curiosity's wheels
Titanium bridle Part of the parachute deployment mechanism used during the rover's landing sequence
Aluminum Curiosity's wheels
Aluminum mortar Part of the parachute deployment mechanism. Hand forged from an aluminum billet
Aluminum honeycomb Formed the core of Atlas V, Curiosity's launch vessel
Bronze DU® metal-polymer bearings are critical components in the rover's drill
Copper Curiosity will collect samples in cells, which are sealed in a pyrolysis oven by pressing the cell's copper collar into a knife-edge seal with a force of up to 250lb. The sample is then heated to 1100°C for analysis.
Lead Curiosity's will be powered, in part, by a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator that will use PbTe/TAGS thermocouples produced by Teledyne Energy Systems.
Stainless Steel Stainless steel gas generators provided the high-pressure gas used to propel Curiosity's parachute from the spacecraft.
Rhenium A RD AMROSS RD-180 booster engine powered the propulsion system used to launch Atlas V. Rhenium is alloyed in the jet turbine.
Tantalum 630 tantalum multi-anode capacitors are responsible for powering the ChemCam laser module on-board Curiosity
Tungsten The back shell of Curiosity's atmospheric entry vehicle released two sets of detachable tungsten weights in order to alter the spacecraft's center of mass as it approached Mars. Individual ballasts weighed 165 pounds (75kgs) or 55 pounds (25kgs).
Gallium Photovoltaic cells layered with minor and semi-conductor metals will provide Curiosity with power during the day.
Silicon Silicon chips etched with more than 1.24 million names are aboard Curiosity.
Copper A penny minted in 1909 (when they were still mostly copper) is on-board to help scientists calibrate the cameras currently sending images back to Earth.

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