CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE – Cyclocross on the moon? If we can send a wheel into space, how long before astronauts are shouldering bikes and bunnyhopping barriers (we figure with the low gravity, even the beginners can manage the hop there!)? Along with observers across the country, the engineering team at Litespeed cheered the successful landing of NASA’s Mars Rover, Curiosity, when it touched down just before midnight this past Sunday night. The legendary Chattanooga-based bicycle manufacturer – long known for their ability to craft and form titanium tubing – was instrumental in the fabrication of the framework that supports the combined wheels.
Unlike its predecessors, Curiosity utilized its wheels as landing gear rather than airbags when a rocket-powered descent lowered it directly onto the Martian surface via a tether on Sunday; the maneuver had been dubbed the “Seven Minutes of Terror” by media and NASA engineers for the precarious and thrilling nature of the throttle from 13,000 mph at atmosphere entry to surface descent.
In addition, the new precision landing gear allowed NASA to practically pinpoint a site compared to previous explorations. And, Curiosity’s titanium rocker-bogie suspension system will prevent it from tipping while navigating the rocky terrain during its anticipated 668 day visit. Independent six-wheel drive and cleats provide traction. Curiosity can also swerve and turn in place a full 360 degrees.
“We absolutely could not pass up the chance to work on this project,” noted American Bicycle Group’s CEO Peter Hurley. “It’s been truly inspirational to have played a part in a project of such importance to our nation’s space program. And, I’m exceedingly proud of my team, both for their daily commitment to engineering and building the best bikes in the world but also for their willingness and enthusiasm to accept challenges of this magnitude.”
In 2013, American Bicycle Group will introduce a fully re-vamped titanium line of bicycles, the T-Series, fabricated in the same manufacturing facility, with the same technology, as the Curiosity gear supplied by Litespeed. American Bicycle Group’s products have been honored with both the coveted EuroBike Design Award and Triathlon America’s Most Innovative Product Award.