One year to the month after Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars, the Rovers are still roaming the planet, sending back crystal-clear images of the Martian surface. Their durable parts help keep them going, enabled by DuPont science.
The Mars Exploration Rovers – Spirit and Opportunity – both contain critical parts made from materials developed by DuPont Electronic & Communication Technologies. Since the birth of manned space flight more than four decades ago, DuPont has been along for the ride with products essential for lighter weight, reduced volume, durability and environmental resistance.
Consumers will find the same DuPont technologies enabling cell phones, plasma display panels, personal digital assistants (PDAs), video camcorders, laptop computers and digital cameras, among others. DuPont electronic materials make these products smaller and more durable, while allowing them to do more, faster and better.
These high-tech materials provide the same solutions so that today's rovers have more space for additional scientific payload. The Mars rovers include almost 70 yards each of flexible circuits made of thin DuPont™ Pyralux® laminates and composites . By replacing bulky round wires and cables, these materials can provide a volume savings of between 60 percent and 70 percent. Stacked, they would total less than 1.5 inches. Pyralux® flexible circuits connect the "brain" of the rovers to their parts – the robotic arm, cameras, high gain antenna, wheels and sensors.
Pressure-sensitive tape made of DuPont™ Kapton® polyimide film is used throughout the rovers to control vibration. Hundreds of Kapton® strip heaters are used throughout the rovers for thermal control, ensuring critical warmth needed to maintain operations in the extremely cold Martian atmosphere.
The cameras beaming clear, high resolution signals back to Earth can do so in part because the Pyralux® flexible circuits were made using DuPont™ Riston® dry film photoresists and ImageMaster™ phototooling films that provide reliable fine-line circuit images, ensuring consistent quality signals and performance.
"DuPont materials have enabled manned and unmanned missions into space for almost half a century," said Craig Naylor, group vice president, DuPont Electronic & Communication Technologies. "That's the same trend you can see and feel in everyday products like lighter, thinner cell phones, yet these smaller, more advanced electronics are much more powerful."