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Appeared on: Monday, January 19, 2004
Plasmon DVD goes to Mars aboard Red Rover

A Planetary Society produced mini-DVD was placed on board each Mars Exploration Rover spacecraft, mounted to the lander petals. Each DVD carries nearly four million Mars enthusiasts’ names collected by NASA.

Each DVD’s engaging design includes the “Astrobot” LEGO mini-figure representation at the center of the disc, magnets to collect dust, colors to study color appearance under a Martian sky, LEGO brick representations to engage kids, and secret codes around the outside to be decoded from images on Mars.

The DVD is made of silica glass rather than plastic to withstand the high temperatures necessary to sterilize it of Earth microbes before it is sent to the Martian surface. Silica glass has a much longer lifespan than typical commercial DVDs—in fact, the silica glass DVD could last more than 500 years. The DVD will remain on the lander as a time capsule for a future generations.

The DVD assembly’s base, the simulated LEGO bricks, and the central oval are made of machined and anodized aluminum. The aluminum parts are separated from the silica glass DVD with Delrin pads. Delrin is an inflexible polymer that is very tough and heat resistant.

The entire assembly, which weighs 69 grams, has been subjected to a battery of tests designed to simulate the extreme environmental conditions of the journey to Mars: temperature cycling from -125 to 60 degrees Celsius, exposure to vacuum, high-speed random vibration, and shocks of 4,000 times the acceleration of Earth’s gravity.

The Planetary Society, in collaboration with the LEGO Company, provided the DVDs to NASA for the Mars Exploration Rover mission. Visionary Products, Inc. implemented the DVD mounting assembly, Plasmon OMS donated the silica glass DVDs and data etching, and the magnets were donated by the Danish magnet team who also have other magnets on the spacecraft.

The Planetary Society's Red Rover Goes to Mars project is made possible through a partnership with the LEGO Company. Special thanks for their support of Red Rover Goes to Mars go to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Visionary Products Inc., Plasmon OMS, Arizona State University, and Malin Space Science Systems.

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