- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - A research laboratory in Ohio is simulating extreme day and night temperatures in Mars to test the power generators used in NASA’S Mars rover.

Researchers at the University of Dayton were chosen to test to the performance of the generators on the Curiosity rover as part of an ongoing five-year, $3.75 million contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.

The two Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators being tested at the university’s Research Institute lab are the only ones on Earth, according to the Dayton Daily News (https://bit.ly/1jHnG4m ). A third is powering the Curiosity rover on Mars.

The generator is the power system used to recharge the batteries on Curiosity. Researchers will design experiments to evaluate the performance of the generator over time and under conditions similar to Mars, where temperatures can range from 45 degrees during the day to 100 below at night.

University officials dedicated the new testing laboratory on Tuesday.

Chadwick Barklay, a research scientist at the lab, said the multi-mission system is unique because it is the first radioisotope thermoelectric generator built for both planetary atmospheres as well as for the vacuum of space.

“The technology was invented here in Dayton back in the late 1950s,” Barklay said. “A lot of work had been done here in the Dayton area over the past 30 years, so it’s nice to see that the technology to a certain extent has come back to its birthplace.”

Barklay helped develop the layout and assembly procedures for the generator that was launched with Curiosity in August 2012. The research lab also performs materials testing for the Department of Energy under the same contract, which runs until 2016.


Information from: Dayton Daily News, https://www.daytondailynews.com

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