BUFFALO, N.Y. — With the Perseverance Mars Rover now beginning its surface mission with some some new pictures coming in, 2 On Your Side wanted to show you how it got there with the help of some extremely talented, brainy people right here in Western New York.
We have more on the "space magic" that happens at the Moog plants in Elma and Niagara Falls everyday.
It's a legacy thing here in Western New York. As you may know, this region is a cradle of aviation and aerospace, and much of it happens on a sprawling corporate campus in Elma and a smaller operation in Niagara Falls.
Moog's Space Division has a rather unassuming sign in Elma, but inside the building, hundreds of people design and make the parts that have helped launch and control missions from the moon landing to the shuttle and, of course, now the Perseverance Rover.
Steve McDonald is a Moog Manager of Engineering for the rocket engine section, and he is based at the Niagara Falls site. He tells 2 On Your Side that "Moog actually played a pretty big role in the mission overall, from fueling on the ground to launch to the spacecraft to the landing."
For example, Moog builds devices called actuators that help turn or "gimbal" the large engines on a booster
Moog's tiny rockets actually steered the spacecraft on its way to Mars. And Moog's throttle valve engines were part of that scary seven-minute, 12,000-mph entry and then the descent with the sky crane down to the surface.
Moog produced valves will clean the rover's drills used for soil samples in the search for possible tiny microbes or fossils of ancient Martian life.
It's all in a day's, or maybe decade's, work at Moog according to this University at Buffalo graduate.
"We pump out a lot of hardware that goes into outer space," McDonald said. "A lot of things launched, a lot of things that you see launched into space. Global communications satellites have our hardware on them all over. But you kind of get used to it after you've worked at it a while.
"It's these space missions like Perseverance, like Curiosity (an older rover). There's several more coming in the future that you're likely to see. But those NASA exploration missions that have a lot of high visibility generate a lot of buzz, a lot of interest, that really gets people excited."
McDonald says he represents a large, local team that is proud of its accomplishments in this Final Frontier. "I want to say the majority of folks that work on the Elma and Niagara Falls campus are Buffalo-born and bred Western New Yorkers," he said.
There's talk that these rover missions -- this is number five -- and other Mars-focused research programs will pave the way for a potential late 2030's manned mission to Mars.
So we had to ask McDonald if he was hoping that someday he and others there at Moog will have a chance to be part of manned mission to Mars?
His "rocket scientist/engineer" reply, naturally, was "Absolutely. Really excited about any opportunities coming around to build hardware for it. Yeah, absolutely."