The NASA rover that landed on Mars Sunday has brought a bit of Chattanooga to the Red Planet.
The Mars rover named Curiosity includes metal legs designed by the Ooltewah-based American Bicycle Group, which makes Litespeed bikes made from the light weight, but durable titanium.
NASA contacted the Ooltwah bike experts to design and build metal legs allowing the car-sized machine to traverse the planet’s possibly rugged terrain.
If the legs couldn’t survive the extreme temperature fluctuations or hold up against the landing impact, the mission would have been botched.
“We were all kind of holding our breath last night,” the group’s chief executive officer Peter Hurley said today.
Hurley and his team let out cries of excitement right along with the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists when the landing went off without a hitch. Members of the two teams grew close since starting the project in 2007, and the mission’s success was a shared victory.
Engineers for the bike maker worked through and tested a variety of designs before the legs were ready. They finally settled on a titanium-aluminum-vanadium alloy able to stand up to the extreme stress tests necessary to prove the legs were spaceworthy.
The Chattanooga team left its mark on Mars. Each one of their names is etched inside the legs they helped create that have now found a permanent home among the stars.