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Alcoa ingenuity holds Mars Curiosity mission together
Aluminium is known for being lightweight, endlessly recyclable, corrosion resistant and integral to everyday life. It is all around us in our everyday lives, in planes, trains, mobile phones, building materials, outdoor furniture, beverage cans, aluminium foil, the list goes on, but who would have thought it would help to hold together NASA’s US$2.5 billion Curiosity space mission to Mars.
As the Curiosity rover, a car-size six-wheel robot made primarily of aluminium, explores the surface of Mars, high-strength precision aerospace fasteners manufactured by Alcoa Fastening Systems hold everything together.
High-strength fasteners connect the rover’s many structural components and attach equipment security to the vehicle, and the threaded inserts are essential in transferring high tension and high loads into the lightweight base structure. The bolts and hexagon nuts can withstand temperatures of up to 650 degrees Celsius making them ideal for turbines, rocket motors and spacecraft.
“Alcoa employees should be proud of our latest contribution to this milestone in human history,” said Alcoa Inc Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Klaus Kleinfeld.

“From Kitty Hawk to Mars and beyond, Alcoa solutions have helped shape every major advance in aviation. More than 90 per cent of aerospace alloys in use today were invented by Alcoa and our fasteners, forgings or other products can be found on virtually anything that flies.”
Alcoa aluminium alloys and propellants have advanced each generation of space travel, from the first human flight and the first moon landing to the Space Shuttle and International Space Station program.
Alcoa of Australia, which represents the world’s largest integrated bauxite mining, alumina refining and aluminium smelting system, is part of the aluminium solution and in 2013 celebrates 50 years of operation in Australia. Alcoa Inc celebrates 125 years of operation globally and like all Alcoa businesses is committed to advancing each generation to create a sustainable future. Watch our video which shows Alcoa’s contribution to the ages.
Mission quick facts
  • Total distance of travel Earth to Mars: about 570 million kilometres
  • Primary mission: one Martian year (98 weeks)
  • Expected near-surface atmospheric temperatures at landing site: minus 90 Celsius to zero Celsius
  • Program cost: US$2.5 billion, including US$1.8 billlion for spacecraft development and science investigations and additional amounts for launch and operations
  • Curiosity Rover dimensions: length 3 metres, width 2.8 metres, height at top of mast 2.1 metres, arm length 2.1 metres, wheel diametre 0.5 metres
  • Mass: 3,893 kilograms at launch, consisting of 899 kilogram rover; 2,401 kilogram entry, descent and landing system (aeroshell plus fuelled descent stage); and 539 kilogram fuelled cruise stage
  • Power for rover: multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator and lithium-ion batteries
Mars at a glance
  • Yellowish brown to reddish colour; occasionally the third-brightest object in the night sky after the moon and Venus
  • Fourth planet from the sun, the next beyond earth
  • Revolves around sun once every 687 earth days
  • Rotation period (length of day): 24 hours, 39 minutes, 35 seconds (1.027 earth days)
  • Two irregularly shaped moons, each only a few kilometres wide
  • Average diameter: 6,780 kilometres; about half the size of earth, but twice the size of earth’s moon
  • Same land area as earth, reminiscent of a cold, rocky desert
  • Mass 1/10th of earth’s; gravity only 38 percent as strong as earth’s
  • Atmosphere composed chiefly of carbon dioxide (95.3 percent), nitrogen (2.7 percent) and argon (1.6 percent)
  • Surface temperature averages: minus 53 celsius; varies from minus 128 celsius during polar night to 27 celsius at equator during midday at closest point in orbit to sun

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