Timken bearings stand ready to play an important role in helping NASA determine whether Mars ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Timken bearings support critical functions onboard the robot—just as they did on two previous NASA planetary rover missions to Mars.
After landing on the red planet early Monday morning, the Mars rover Curiosity is ready to put its laboratory instruments to work analyzing samples of rocks, soil and atmosphere.
Curiosity will analyze dozens of samples scooped from the soil and cored from rocks as it explores with greater range than the previous Mars rovers. Instruments onboard Curiosity include a spectrum analyzer that requires advanced motion control and a miniature pump—both will be involved in the process of collecting and analyzing specimens.
The center hub of the Curiosity's carousel system rotates on Timken bearings, positioning sample cups. In addition, the vacuum pump, the size of a "D" cell battery, supporting the analytical equipment utilizes two miniature Timken bearings with an outer diameter of 0.2500 inches.
The Timken Company plant in Keene, NH, works extensively with NASA and manufactured these miniature precision bearings.