The new Mars rover Curiosity ended its six-month journey to Mars with a successful landing on August 6, taking just seven anxious and exciting minutes to come to a safe descent on the Red Planet. In contrast to the rovers Opportunity and Spirit, Curiosity can travel further on its six wheels and run longer without solar energy as a radionuclide battery gives energy for years. The plan is for the new rover to explore the immense Gale Crater on Mars for signs of life during a two-year mission. Sophisticated onboard equipment will help with the exploration: A gas chromatograph will search for organic compounds, a spectrometer will analyze the composition of rocks being collected by a two-meter-long robot arm, and a neutron source will look for hydrogen in the ground.
As part of its mission to Mars, Curiosity has components aboard from maxon motor, Fall River, Mass. The company’s MR Encoder technology is built into the electromechanical joints of the rover. The magnetic sensors are mounted on the drive shafts and are responsible for motor control. In addition, maxon’s development services for the drive systems have also played a part in the 900-kg rover being able to carry out its Mars duties successfully. For more information, visit maxonmotorusa.com.
Also visit engineeringtv.com for several videos explaining other technologies integrated into drones and unmanned vehicles — from the recentAUVSI Unmanned Systems North America 2012 show.