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Alliance Spacesystems Reaches Out To Mars With Robotic Arm Deployment

This image taken by the front hazard-identification camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, shows the rover's robotic arm, or instrument deployment device. The arm was deployed from its stowed position beneath the "front porch" of the rover body early Friday morning. This is the first use of the arm to deploy the microscopic imager, one of four geological instruments located on the arm. The instrument will help scientists analyze and understand martian rocks and soils by taking very high resolution, close-up images. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/US Geological Survey

Pasadena - Jan 19, 2004
With the deployment of the Spirit Rover, a robotic arm built by Alliance Spacesystems is now in action. The robotic arm (formally known as the Instrument Deployment Device, or IDD) has five rotating joints and an extended length of more than one meter. The arm is mounted to the forward structure of the "Spirit" rover and was secured during launch, landing, and rover positioning by ASI-designed restraint mechanisms at the arm elbow and the instrument turret at its outboard end.

Mechanisms developed by ASI for the arm include five unique actuators that articulate the arm and position scientific instruments, the two restraint mechanisms that unlatched after landing on the surface of Mars and provide passive restraint during rover maneuvers, contact sensors to detect proximity to targets of interest, and a complex flexprint interconnection system that traverses the rotating joints to service the electromechanical devices and instruments.

ASI's robotic arm supports a package of four complex scientific instruments that will enable scientists to study rock structure, detect materials that may have formed in the presence of water, and define elemental structure.

The package of instruments will expose the unaltered interiors of rocks to identify minerals containing iron and evaluate the composition and texture of rocks and soil at a microscopic scale.

"The successful landing and deployment of MER is a tribute to the years of unrelenting effort by the talented and dedicated JPL team," said Rene Fradet, CEO of Alliance Spacesystems, Inc. "The thrill of being part of this mission and seeing an ASI robotic arm at work on another planet is extraordinary."

ASI is a provider of mechanical systems for aerospace and commercial applications. ASI provides composite structures, robotics, mechanisms and mechanical analyses for systems operating in extreme environments. ASI's innovative products have seen use in interplanetary spacecraft, telecommunications and scientific satellites and challenging terrestrial applications.

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Space mission will explore effect of Mars' gravity on mammals
Boston - Jan 19, 2004
Students and researchers at MIT are designing a space mission to learn about the effects of Mars-level gravity using pint-sized astronauts. The 15 mouse-trounauts will orbit Earth for five weeks to help researchers learn how Martian gravity -- about one-third that of Earth -- will affect the mammalian body.

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