EaglePicher batteries power InSight on Mars

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EaglePicher batteries power InSight on Mars

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Nov 27, 2018 2 min to read
This illustration made available by NASA shows the InSight lander drilling into the surface of Mars. The craft landed on Monday and will be the first to study Mars’ interior. NASA via AP HOGP
The NASA lander InSight landed Monday on Mars, shown here in a composite photo created from over 100 images taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s chief engineer, Rob Manning, described the touchdown as “flawless.” He added: “This is what we really hoped and imagined in our mind’s eye.” NASA via AP HOGP
After barreling through outer space for months, the NASA spacecraft InSight on Monday successfully landed on the surface of Mars, where it will stay and probe the red planet’s surface for nearly two years.
The craft will be the first to study the interior of a planet other than Earth, according to NASA. It got there with the help of Joplin’s EaglePicher Technologies. InSight represents the latest step in space exploration in a long line of them for the local battery-maker. EaglePicher products have had a place in space missions nearly as long as Americans have been in space, and they have been present for multiple Mars missions in particular.
“Our people really do take a lot of pride in what they do,” said Ron Nowlin, vice president and general manager of aerospace systems for EaglePicher. “And these missions really help that. You know, it’s kind of amazing to sit and think: ‘Oh, yeah, by the way, we’ve got a product we made that’s going to touch down on the surface of Mars today.’ And actually see that happen, that’s not something everybody gets to say. So all of our people across the company get really, really excited about the products they work on and the missions they support.”
The company provided a pair of 30 amp-hour, 28-volt main batteries for InSight’s normal operation and additional thermal batteries for the craft’s lander, Nowlin said. The two main batteries, he said, are roughly half the size of an average kitchen microwave — much smaller than the EaglePicher battery from the International Space Station that has been fashioned into a coffee table at the company’s Lithium Ion Center in the Crossroads Business Park.
“The solar provides some of the energy to provide charge for the batteries,” he said. “When they need more power or when they have low light or no light, the batteries provide power for the vehicle. And again on it we also made thermal batteries, which were used on the deployment subsystems to be able to safely land the vehicle on the surface of Mars.”
The probe launched May 5. With its landing Monday, NASA plans for InSight to study conditions on Mars until November 2020. The craft is not a rover, meaning it will stay in the spot it landed. A robotic arm on InSight will grasp scientific tools and explore the planet’s surface with them. Using a heat probe, InSight will go deeper into Mars’ surface than any previous mission or lander has.
In about six and a half minutes, InSight slowed from more than 6,000 miles per hour to a speed at which it was safe to land on the surface of Mars. The landing process was automated, according to NASA, with engineers controlling the craft only up until three hours before the 2 p.m. CST landing.
Monday’s landing is the latest in a string of achievements EaglePicher has had in the exploration of Mars. In 2015, NASA announced that an orbiter around Mars had discovered evidence of liquid water on the planet, which experts said could suggest the possibility of life on the planet. That orbiter featured an EaglePicher battery.
When the roving laboratory Curiosity searched the surface of Mars in 2012, it was powered in part by thermal batteries made by EaglePicher. In May 2008, the company helped power the Phoenix lander, which undertook a mission similar to InSight’s.
Batteries from Joplin have been used in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, in the lunar rover that transported astronauts on the moon, on space shuttles, the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station, not to mention hundreds of commercial, military and scientific satellites. Looking ahead
Ron Nowlin, vice president and general manager of aerospace systems for EaglePicher, said the company already is set up to provide batteries for a 2020 Mars rover mission, continuing its legacy of involvement in space and Mars exploration. Tags

2018-12-05 21:45:02

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