From TV to Reality
Growing up reading about and watching the Mercery Astronauts on television, many children wanted to be the first person to set foot on a planet.
Not every will get to be one of the first people to have a part of them roll across the surface of another planet, but Don Palac did.
Don Palac was in and worked for the United States Air Force for 10 years.
Palac wanted to be a pilot, but colorblindness was going to stop that from happening.
When some proposed to him that he could be an engineer.
“Engineers get the best toys in the world a different one everyday! To be a pilot you need to train train train train to be a space-shuttle pilot you need to train train train, you’re training all the time. but engineers get to do something different every day and Play with the coolest toys in the world,” says Palac.
Don Palac got to be a part of the first Mars rover called the Pathfinder.
He and his team came up with three different experiments to present to be on the Pathfinder.
The major experiment was their dust experiment.
They set a piece of glass over top of one of the solar cells of the Pathfinder to see how much dust accumulation there would be over time.
This experiment was and is very important to help with the creation of the next rovers.
The experiment showed that in 30 days the rovers solar cells would be covered to a point where the rover could not produce enough power to function anymore.
Well, there is a miraculous thing that happens on Mars, they are called dust devils.
Dust devils are a force of air moving in a spiral motion, somewhat like a tornado, these happen every few months on Mars.
With Winds up to 50 mph, one went overtop of Pathfinder clearing all the sand off the solar cells.
Which gave Pathfinder a total of 60 days producing enough power to function instead of 30.
Don and his team that worked on the experiment all received awards for their findings.
Don has received another award as well for his work with nuclear power.
Don and his team were looking to see how you could support and maintain life on Mars for exploration.
You need a way to power necessary objects, like a machine to create oxygen, electricity, and all other life essentials.
For all of this Don and his team went to nuclear power.
Don wanted to know how small they could get a nuclear reactor to be.
They were told the smallest that could be made was one the size of a paper towel roll.
The team realized by placing the reactor in a nickel tube surrounded by a liquid metal that as the reactor heated the liquid metal it would rise then condensate.
They placed an engine on the end of the nickel casing.
The nuclear reactor was able to give 10 kilowatts of power on its own, but that wasnt enough to power everything needed.
With the reactor in this nickel casing surrounded by liquid metal, the reactor could now produce 40 kilowatts of power.
This could power up to 8 homes, and would be small enough to use mutiple of, just like building boxes.
Don according to his wife can be ashamed of his work, well he shouldn’t be.
Don Palac wanted to be the first man on Mars…
Well Don got to be, because his name along with some others are etched in Pathfinder.
You did it Don you were one of the first men to be on Mars.