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Idaho Lab Sends Battery to Space
by Staff Writers
Boise ID (SPX) Nov 14, 2011

The RTG is no pocket battery either. At four-feet-tall it is made to last the duration of the mission.

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has a unique perspective on the upcoming November Mars mission launch. Engineers at INL have been working for months to create the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG), a battery to power the rover named Curiosity.

"It's terrific that INL is building a battery for the Mars Rover. We (Boise State) have great connections with NASA and INL, it's a great facility," Barbara Morgan, former astronaut and Distinguished Educator in Residence said.

According to KPVI News, NASA projects such as this don't happen often and the INL staff is excited about the prospect of their battery going into space.

The rover itself weighs in at 1000-pounds, bigger than its predecessors at the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.

The RTG is no pocket battery either. At four-feet-tall it is made to last the duration of the mission.

The battery must undergo a series of tests including a "big space-sized shake to mimic the perils of space flight," according to Local News 8.

Radioisotope Power Systems Program Manager Stephen Johnson admitted that developing this kind of tech for NASA requires a team of 50 to 70 workers and a lot of overtime.

"We worked on a lot of weekends, a lot of late shifts," Johnson said. "I wasn't kidding when I said we worked a few months of 24/7."

According to NASA, Curiosity has instruments to search for evidence that Mars' environment is -or ever was - favorable for microbial life.

Boise State alumnus Dan Isla, electrical and software systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), is working on the rover.

"I'm one of the guys who's running the tests on the hardware. I'm sending commands to the rover, to make it move the arm, drive around, fire the laser and things like that. We are working very hard behind the glass, kinda doing the nuts and bolts of operations," Isla said in an interview with USTREAM.

According to Morgan, Isla will be one of the engineers installing the RTG battery and making sure it's working correctly.

"I'm one of the guys who'll sit on console during the launch until we actually hit the button and make it go, so it's a pretty exciting job," Isla said.

Curiosity will launch on November 25. The craft is expected to land on Mars sometime in August of 2012.

Related Links
Mars Science Lab at JPL
Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com

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