Mars Mission Gallery

In 2003, Ewart-Ohlson completed a contract with Pioneer Aerospace and General Dynamics to machine the mortar tubes for the Mars Exploration Rover Mission. The mortar tubes were part of the parachute deployment system which helped guide each of the landers to the Martian surface. Mars Explorer Rover "A", nicknamed "Spirit", launched from Cape Canaveral on June 10, followed by  MER - B, "Opportunity," on July 7. After two flawless touchdowns, Spirit and Opportunity both rolled off their landers and are continuing to send back fascinating pictures and data from the surface of Mars. You can follow the progress of both rovers at the JPL/NASA Mars Exploration Rover website -- and don't miss the video simulation of the landing available on the Athena Payload website!

The solid aluminum forgings weigh 560 pounds as received by Ewart-Ohlson.
The forgings are machined into this hollow configuration. The finished wall is .058" thick.
The finished tubes weigh only 11.8 pounds. 98% of the material has been removed.
Ewart-Ohlson produced twenty of these parts, two of which ended up on the surface of Mars.
A simulated image of the Rover as the parachute slows its descent through the Martian atmosphere. (Courtesy NASA/JPL).
Another simulated image, showing the deployed parachute and the firing of the retro-rockets. (Courtesy NASA/JPL).