The DU metal-polymer bearings are components in the drill that Curiosity is using to sample rocks in the Martian landscape. The self-lubricating bearings feature high resistance to wear and the ability to function in the harsh conditions and temperatures found in the Martian atmosphere. The bearings can operate successfully at temperatures in a range from -328o F (-200o C) to +536o F (+280o C).

Curiosity’s mission is to investigate conditions on the planet to see if they may have been conducive to microbial life. The investigation requires obtaining and analyzing dozens of samples scooped from the ground or drilled from rocks. A robotic arm on Curiosity is capable of drilling into Martian rocks to a depth of one inch, or 2.5 cm. The drill acquires samples by rotating and hammering the rocks with weight applied to the bit.

Three DU metal-polymer bearing segments serve as the primary suspension components for the drill spindle, one of four components that allow the drill to operate in the environment on Mars. In addition to the spindle, which rotates the bit, the drill includes: a chuck that engages and releases the bit; a percussion mechanism that hammers the bit; and a linear translation mechanism.

“It is a great honor for GGB bearings to be used on the Curiosity Rover,” said Ken Walker, GGB division president.