On 5 May 2018, conditions permitting, NASA will launch its Insight lander from Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, to study the centre of Mars. The 5 May launch window opens at 4.05am Pacific Daylight Time and if all goes according to plan the lander will take around six months to reach Mars, entering Mars’ atmosphere at 14,100 miles per hour (22,692 km/h).
Insight – which is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport – will give the red planet its first ever thorough check-up, delving deep beneath the surface to study the crust, mantle and core of Mars. It will settle on a smooth, flat plain called Elysium Planitia to carry out two years of geophysical investigations into the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system (including Earth).
A suite of sensitive scientific instruments on-board Insight, will explore beneath the surface of Mars - measuring the planet's "vital signs" including: its "pulse" (seismology), "temperature" (heat flow), and "reflexes" (precision tracking).
NASA has confirmed that Castrol Braycote will be used to lubricate a range of Insight’s instruments, including its seismometer and mole.
“The opportunity for our technology to help make the Mars Insight lander happen is incredibly exciting” said Keith Campbell, Business Development Manager for Castrol “Castrol is extremely proud that Braycote will soon be part of history in the making. Roll on lift-off!”
The first formulation for Castrol Braycote was developed for NASA at pretty much the start of the space programme in the 60s. The lubricant is already used by NASA to keep the Mars Rover roving and the International Space Station in its 17,000 mph (27,400 km/h) orbit around our planet.
As well as operating in extreme temperatures, Braycote has been formulated to reduce what is known as “outgassing”, which is the evaporation of the grease, meaning that instruments can work at optimum levels, even at extremely high temperatures as well as high Vacuum conditions.
Castrol is also working with the European Space Agency and with private space companies in the USA to supply its Braycote lubricant. Back on earth, it can also be used in manufacturing involving vacuums or with hostile chemicals and extreme environments. That’s a benefit to the semi-conductor and microchip industry, electronics, flat panel display and hard disk manufacturers.