Video Transcript: Building a Clean Space Machine

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(music)

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(servo activates)

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(Screen text: The Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

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(whoosh and pound)
(Screen text: UNDER CONSTRUCTION Mars Science Laboratory)

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(Curtis Wilkerson)
Hello, my name is Curtis Wilkerson

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and I'm a Quality Assurance engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory Rover.

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And this is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Spacecraft Assembly Facility.

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(Screen text: Spacecraft Assembly Facility)

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This is literally where it all comes together.

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Come on, let's go inside.

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When we're building a spacecraft, all of its parts are brought here,

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to the cleanroom, for final assembly.

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So, why do we use a cleanroom?

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Because dust particles and other microscopic contaminates

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can harm our sensitive equipment and optics.

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So, we have to remove those particles from the air.
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Also, tiny airborne life-forms called microbes co-exist with us.

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We have to remove those as well...

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because, we don't want to visit another planet and think we discovered life...

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just to find out we brought it with us from Earth.

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This cleanroom is configured as a Class 10,000 cleanroom.

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That means that within one cubic foot of air...

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there can be no more than 10,000 particles the size of half of a micron.

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Half of a micron is 200 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

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Now, if 10,000 sounds like a lot, by comparison the room that we're standing in...

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has nearly 500,000 to a million particles within one cubic foot that are larger than half a micron.

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So, where do all these particles come from?

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Well, most of them come from us, the people.

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Things like skin flakes, our hair, cosmetics, even the lint on our clothes.

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When we are standing still, motionless, we shed more than a 100,000 particles per minute.

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(wind blowing)

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We're also worried about triboelectric charging.

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Now, that's just a fancy way of saying static electricity.

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You know how it feels when you're walking along a carpet...

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and you touch a doorknob and you get that little shock?

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(zap)

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Well, that is more than 2,000 volts of electricity.

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That kind of shock can do a lot of damage to our electronics and sensitive equipment.

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So, to prevent static electricity, and contamination...

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we wear a special cleanroom garment you may have noticed.

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We call it a "bunny suit."

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Come on, let's suit up.

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(music)

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(air blowing)

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(music)

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Inside the cleanroom, the air is kept clean by a special ventilation system.

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On this side of the room air is blown in...

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while existing air is sucked out on the north side of the room.

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It's then recirculated through HEPA filters and carbon filters...

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before being blown back into the cleanroom.

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We also move our heavy equipment with large cranes.

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The crane above us has a capacity of 15 tons.

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Inside the cleanroom, we are building the Mars Science Laboratory...

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the next rover going to Mars. We have four large components in here today.

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Behind me is the Backshell.

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During our ten month cruise, this will be the home of our rover.

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It's covered with a white thermal protection system right now...

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to protect it during entry into the planet.

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(Screen text: Descent Stage)
Here we have the Descent Stage. Some call it the Sky Crane.

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After we detach from the parachute,

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this has the responsibility of lowing the rover...

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with the help of eight retro-rockets, seen in red...

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to a soft landing on the surface of Mars.

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At nearly six feet in diameter, our Cruise Stage gets us from Earth to Mars.

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(Screen Text: Cruise Stage)

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With solar panels on the top, we have power...

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antennas pointing toward Earth we have communication...

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and with the little rockets in the corner, in red,

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we can make small trajectory maneuvers during our cruise.

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And, here's the reason we're going to Mars.

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(Screen Text: Mars Science Laboratory Rover)
The Mars Science Laboratory Rover.

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The largest rover this planet has ever sent to Mars.

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(Screen Text: The Rover (as of October 2008))
It's mid-October, and right now we are doing a lot of electrical testing.

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But, the closer we get to our launch date, we'll start adding our wheels,

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and our mast with the cameras...and then the robotic arm.

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It'll really start to take form.

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Once we're finished with all our assembly and tests,

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we'll pack it up, and ship it to Cape Canaveral Florida at Kennedy Space Center.

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We'll go through even more tests--before we stack it on a rocket and launch it to Mars.

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I gotta get back to work, but I hope you enjoyed your tour.

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For NASA and JPL, I'm Curtis Wilkerson.

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NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

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