Rockwell Collins optics used on NASA's Mars rover

Lens assemblies manufactured at Rockwell Collins in Carlsbad, Calif., are being used on NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity.

Launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Nov. 26, 2011, the rover will spend the next 98 weeks – one Martian year – in the Gale Crater area of Mars, searching for evidence that Mars could have supported life at one time. Curiosity will pick up where previous rovers left off, looking beyond evidence of water to search for organics – chemical building blocks which might indicate whether Mars could have ever supported microbes.

According to Phillip Howard, a principal program manager for Optronics, the rover is equipped with 12 Rockwell Collins lens assemblies, including eight Hazcams and four Navcams. The Hazcams are mounted near the rover’s wheels and are used to detect obstacles in Curiosity’s path. The Hazcams also are used to generate 3D images to plan motion of the rover's robotic arm. The Navcams are located on the rover’s mast and are used to provide black and white images with a broader view of the landscape, allowing the rover to maneuver to points of interest.

“It was particularly exciting for us to see that the first images the rover transmitted back to Earth were coming from our lens assemblies,” said Howard. “These lenses are one of the few features on the rover that haven’t undergone major design changes from one mission to the next.

“It’s good to see that our product has maintained the standard necessary to function well in the extreme thermal environment of Mars,” he continued.

Janet Zeidler, director of Optronics, agreed. “The Carlsbad team is very proud to continue our company’s legacy of participation in space exploration,” she said.

Source: Rockwell Collins, Inc. (NYSE: COL)
Date: Aug 13, 2012