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Eagle Pitcher celebrates Mars rover landing

JOPLIN, Mo. — Employees of a Joplin-based company experienced a sense of pride Thursday. Welcome to an out of this world watch party. It took place at the Eagle Picher Plant inside the Crossroads Industrial Park in Joplin.

Ron Nowland, V.P., Eagle Picher Aerospace Division, said, “You know this is pretty exciting. We do so much space work that it becomes pretty routine, but to land on Mars is pretty special. That doesn’t happen everyday, we’ve put several rovers on the surface. This is the biggest by far and it’s pretty exciting to be really part of this mission.”

Employees halted production on Thursday afternoon as they watched the Mars 2020 rover touch down on the Martian surface. But Nowland says this watch party is just a prelude to what’s coming in the future.

“The other thing we’re involved with is the Orian Crew Vehicle, and as you probably know, in the future it will support Mars missions of humans as well. So we’re not only talking about landers but we’re also in the future talking astronauts to the surface of Mars as well.”

The battery manufacturer played an important role in almost every facet of the Mars 2020 rover project which launched back in July of that year.

Jackie Kennedy, Eagle Picher Project Manager, said, “We powered everything on this except for the helicopter, we have ten batteries on the launch vehicle, we have four thermal batteries that power the entry, descent and landing, the power in the pyro functions, and then we also have two lithium-ion batteries that power the Rover.”

Kennedy says projects like these are a good example of Eagle Picher’s teamwork.

“In Rhode Island they made the cells that went into the main battery, we have a facility there, we assembled the battery here, our silver-zinc batteries were made in Rhode Island, and our thermal batteries were powered at our C Street facility, so I would say probably 300 people.”

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