Space exploration may still seem like science fiction to some, but rest assured, it is very real, and humanity is learning more each year. Our scientists are actually starting to get down to the nitty-gritty of space, meaning Martian rocks and dust. This highly magnetic material is collected by exploratory rovers so that we can study and reveal any secrets it might hold about Mars’ past, specifically in relation to geologic history. 

That said, how do we go about collecting space dust that is hundreds of millions of miles away from the nearest human-being? The answer is three-fold: rovers, rock abrasion tools (RAT), and perhaps most important, magnets, referred to as “capture,” “filter,” and “sweep,” depending on their function.

  • Capture magnets: Attract any magnetic particle in range
  • Filter magnets: Capture only the most magnetic particles
  • Sweep magnets: Only allows non-magnetic particles to collect in the center of the magnet

Rovers, RATs, and Magnets

You’ve probably heard of the Mars rovers –– Spirit and Opportunity. These remote-operated motor vehicles can be directed –– from Earth –– to explore the various topographical features of the mysterious, red planet. If the goal is to collect dust, the rover will also have an attached RAT to grind up larger chunks of Martian rock. 

Four magnets are attached to the RAT, each one being 0.27 inches in diameter. These are small but very powerful magnets, much like our ½” by ½” cylinders with nearly 25 pounds of pull force. Two more magnets (capture and filter) about one inch in diameter are mounted to the front of the rover, angled so that non-magnetic material will fall off. Finally, there is a mounted magnet (sweep) on top of the rover in view of a camera, but this magnet deflects any wind-carried dust. It is 0.35 inches in diameter. 

Explore Earth with Apex Magnets

The NASA Jet Propulsion Lab uses neodymium magnets in each of their exploration rovers –– all available for long-distance analysis by a faraway research team. Conceptually, you might use magnets in the same way in your own Earth-bound industry. For example, you might use a magnetic lifter in your workshop to pick up heavy steel or iron, or a mobile hall sensor array to detect ferrous material in walls and pipelines. If you have any questions on how to use either of the mentioned products, contact us today.