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maxon motors move Martian manipulators
Third Quarter 2008, Robotics & Mechatronics


On 3 August 2007 NASA started a new mission to our neighbouring red planet Mars. The major task of the Phoenix Mission is to look for signs of life, which means traces of water, on Mars. On board are two microscopes, an excavator shovel and seven maxon electro-motors.

On 26 May 2008, after a nine month journey, the American space vehicle Phoenix Mars Lander landed successfully on Mars. The flight time and destination were chosen carefully so that, for the first time, a probe landed in the northern hemisphere at the beginning of the red planet's spring.

Martian probe Phoenix Mars Lander
Martian probe Phoenix Mars Lander

Since the first Mars landing in 1997, maxon motor has been a constant partner of NASA. The Pathfinder was fitted with 11 small maxon motors. Both Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in January 2005, have 39 maxon motors which are still working.

The latest project, Phoenix, is also supported by maxon motor. Not only is this probe searching for visible water on our red neighbour but it is also digging for traces of water with a robot shovel. An over two metre long robot arm is being used to penetrate the thin layer of dust and rubble to lay bare the permanent ice on Mars. Researchers at the University in Neuenburg are analysing the soil samples with a special microscope, to assess if primitive life forms can be found beneath the surface of Mars.

Also on board the Phoenix Mars Lander are seven 25 mm DC motors manufactured by maxon motor in Sachseln. These motors are being used to position the two solar cells which supply the probe with energy.


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