Twin Cities Metal Supermarkets supply steel for rover instruments.
Stainless steel supplied by Metal Supermarkets and manufactured by LOFTech built a vital instrument which looks straight out of a sci-fi movie. It is called the ChemCam, a part of NASA’s Curiosity rover.
The ChemCam is an advanced instrument mounted on the rover's mast used to determine the composition of rocks. Using the most powerful laser in outer space, the ChemCam fires a laser pulse at rocks up to 60 yards away. From the light given off by the laser hitting the rock, scientists use the built-in spectrometers to determine what the rock is made of. The light resulting from these blasts is recorded and analyzed by the rover, which can determine the elemental composition of samples from the atomic emission lines produced.
“It just goes to show what a small world it really is,” says Doug Knepper, Metal Supermarkets of the Twin Cities owner. “We are constantly impressed with the variety of products that are made with our raw material. It’s cool to think that something that started here ended up on Mars.”
The ChemCam project is special for a few reasons. First, it is a great example of small and growing businesses working hard to accomplish stellar (better yet, Martian) results. Also, the two companies were started around the same time and have grown together on a similar trajectory. Metal Supermarkets and LOFTech have been doing business together for almost 10 years.
“It is a great working relationship. We opened our first of three Twin Cities Metal Supermarkets locations around the same time LOFTech opened its doors,” says Knepper. “Both businesses have grown together. LOFTech has their niche, we have ours and we’ve been doing it since 2001.”
The Curiosity rover used the ChemCam laser to zap a patch of land called the Rocknest dune to determine if frost accumulates on Mars' surface at night. For ongoing updates of Curiosity’s mission on Mars, follow it on Twitter.