DuPont on Mars

Flexible circuits made with DuPont™ Pyralux® flexible laminates power the high-resolution stereo panoramic cameras on Spirit, the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) that recently landed on the Red Planet. Spirit's twin, Opportunity, will land on the opposite side of Mars later this month. The images from Spirit's cameras have been seen around the world and are the most detailed views of Mars ever seen. They can be viewed at: (http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/)

The circuits for the MER cameras and other systems were provided by Pioneer Circuits, Inc. of Santa Ana, California. "In Spirit and Opportunity, Pyralux® is used extensively in flex cables that interconnect all major electronics subsystems such as steering, motors, antennas and the large main tower of the explorers," says Kurt Roberts, DuPont product manager for Pyralux®. "Flexible printed circuits made of Pyralux® also are present in each rover's electronic wheels, six panoramic cameras, camera telescoping mask and robotic arm."

Pyralux® enabled Pioneer to dramatically shrink and lighten circuits, especially compared against conventionally wired circuits – critical advantages considering the cost and fuel required to boost each rover pound to Mars. "For instance, this technology allowed us to replace a pound of hard wiring with just 87 grams of flex circuitry," said Dale McKeeby, senior vice president at Pioneer. "Flex circuitry consumes less than 10 percent of the space that hard wiring demands."

The flexibility of Pyralux® is vital to helping these circuits to endure conditions that include the 50 Gs of force when the landers hit the Martian surface, vibration during liftoff, and thermal cycling from -100 degrees Celsius to 0 degrees Celsius over 24 hours. "These circuits eliminate the rigid metal pins and wires found in conventional circuits, which would be points of weakness in these applications," Kurt says. "Instead, very thin copper in the Pyralux® connects flexibly, enabling the materials to bend without interrupting electrical transmission. We believe this type of mission just wouldn't be possible without Pyralux®, which is only available from DuPont."

For more information about Pyralux®, a product from DuPont Electronic Technologies, visit www.dupont.com/fcm or call 1-800-243-2143, ext. 3637.

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