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Mars Science Laboratory

Severe Environments

Technologies for severe environments make systems robust enough to handle extreme conditions in space and on Mars.

Managing Extreme Martian Temperatures

Varying martian temperatures create a challenge for thermal engineers. Within the area in which Mars Science Laboratory was capable of landing, temperatures can range from 86 degrees Fahrenheit to -197 degrees Fahrenheit! It is crucial to maintain temperate conditions for the rover's computer "brains" and other critical components.

Since the rover mainly needs to be concerned with warming its components, thermal engineers have ensured that there are multiple ways to accomplish this heating:

  • First, internal components, when in use, naturally give off heat.
  • Second, some electrical heaters were strategically placed on certain components.
  • The third method is the rover's Heat Rejection System (HRS). This system, with pumps and a fluid loop, can also serve to cool off the rover when necessary. For heating, the fluid loop can gather excess heat from the rover's Muliti-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), the main power source.

The rover's batteries have more stringent temperature requirements. Their temperature is maintained via the Heat Rejection System and separate Thermo Electric Coolers (TEC) and heaters.

Similar to the warm electronics box (WEB) that is akin to the rover's "body" (which protects the rover's critical computer brains), a Remote WEB (the rover's "head") is atop the mast (it's "neck") to house and safeguard cameras and a science instrument. Through electrical heating, the Remote Web keeps the mast components above -40 Fahrenheit.