Mars Landing Finds Life — in the Job Market

Here's a bit of good news amid the reports of laid-off NASA scientists struggling to find work: Curiosity, the project that landed a rover on Mars yesterday, is currently supporting over 700 jobs here on earth.

If you factor in all the folks who've participated in getting the rover to the red planet, the program has fostered about 7000 jobs in total. CNN provides a great breakdown of where the work is:

  • NASA: 400 workers are currently assigned to Curiosity, but some 3000 NASA employees have worked on the project during the eight-year preparation for the landing.
  • United Launch Alliance: This rocket design company benefited most in terms of job creation, says NASA spokeperson Guy Webster, according to CNN. 1500 people worked on creating Curiosity's launch vehicle at ULA.
  • Aerospace giants like Lockheed Martin Corp. and Alliant Techsystems both had a hand in developing the rover. Aerojet, the company that made propulsion systems for every Mars-bound craft since Viking 1 in 1975, created the engines that lowered the rover when it descended to the surface of the planet.

Lots of other companies, big and small, contributed to the success of the mission. It's definitely worth looking at the full list, if just to get a sense of how many different systems and types of expertise a project like Curiosity requires, and the kinds of jobs it supports.

But our personal favorite Curiosity contributor, in terms of gee whiz factor, has to be Litespeed. Based in Chattanooga, Tenn., this bicycle company (!) made the titanium-based braces between the rover's wheels. Proving once again that bikes are always the answer.

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(Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video/Flickr)