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  • Technology built in Maryland is part of the Perseverance Rover

    February 9, 2021


    multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator
    multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG)

    A piece of technology built in Maryland is playing an integral part to a mission to Mars.

    The countdown is on as scientists and space fans await the landing of the Perseverance Rover. NASA launched the rover last summer in Florida, and it's expected to land on Mars in about eight days.

    ​There's no need to head to space when you can step into a lab already out of this world.

    The engineers at Teledyne Energy Systems in Hunt Valley have been preparing for something otherworldly, creating their multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator, or MMRTG for short.

    "The materials in the generator directly convert heat into electricity. There are no moving parts, there's no piston, we have nothing rotating. No moving parts within this generator, so it's very reliable," engineer Josh Wojcik said.

    The inner core stores plutonium, and its outer fins and hundreds of energy converters turn the plutonium's heat into electricity, which will serve as the Perseverance's main power source at about 115 watts.

    "It's a little bit of power, but for a long time," Wojcik said.

    "Really, what that means is it can handle environments from planetary all the way up through deep space," said MRRTG program manager Steve Keyser.

    Keyser said the MMRTG will help the rover's mission, collecting samples of rock and soil and any hints of ancient extraterrestrial life.

    "It was very exciting to see it go up and it will be more exciting when it lands successfully and starts carrying out its mission," Wojcik said.

    "We're looking forward to the landing and it's very, very exciting," Keyser said.

    It will power through distant planets and U.S. space history.

    After the rover lands, it's expected to last another two years, at least, collecting data on Mars. After that, the MMRTG is expected to generate power for at least another 17 years after that.