Metals on the Mars Rover Curiosity

What Metals Make-up Curiosity?

Side profile of the Mars rover Curiosity. Image courtesy NASA/NPL Caltech

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, culminating in the Curiosity Rover's arrival on the Red Planet on August 6, 2012, was the result of years of technological research and human ingenuity in the field of materials science.

In order to negotiate the extreme conditions of space travel, atmospheric entry, landing and exploration, which involve temperatures ranging from 3,790 °F  (2,090 °C) to 131.8°F (-91°C), Curiosity and her transport vehicles were constructed using an assortment of metal and composite materials.

Here is just a snapshot of some of the metals used in the construction of Curiosity and the transport vehicle:

Metals in the Mars Rover Curiosity



Titanium tubingForm Curiosity's legs
Titanium springsAdd cushioning within Curiosity's wheels
Titanium bridlePart of the parachute deployment mechanism used during the rover's landing sequence
AluminumCuriosity's wheels
Aluminum mortarPart of the parachute deployment mechanism. Hand forged from an aluminum billet
Aluminum honeycombFormed the core of Atlas V, Curiosity's launch vessel
BronzeDU® metal-polymer bearings are critical components in the rover's drill
CopperCuriosity will collect samples in cells, which are sealed in a pyrolysis oven by pressing the cell's copper collar into a knife-edge seal with a force of up to 250lb. The sample is then heated to 1100°C for analysis.
LeadCuriosity will be powered, in part, by a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator that will use PbTe/TAGS thermocouples produced by Teledyne Energy Systems.
Stainless SteelStainless steel gas generators provided the high-pressure gas used to propel Curiosity's parachute from the spacecraft.
RheniumA RD AMROSS RD-180 booster engine powered the propulsion system used to launch Atlas V. Rhenium is alloyed in the jet turbine.
Tantalum630 tantalum multi-anode capacitors are responsible for powering the ChemCam laser module onboard Curiosity
TungstenThe back shell of Curiosity's atmospheric entry vehicle released two sets of detachable tungsten weights in order to alter the spacecraft's center of mass as it approached Mars. Individual ballasts weighed 165 pounds (75kgs) or 55 pounds (25kgs).
GalliumPhotovoltaic cells layered with minor and semi-conductor metals will provide Curiosity with power during the day.
SiliconSilicon chips etched with more than 1.24 million names are aboard Curiosity.
CopperA penny minted in 1909 (when they were still mostly copper) is onboard to help scientists calibrate the cameras currently sending images back to Earth.