A South Windsor company helped make NASA’s most recent mission to Mars a success.
When the InSight lander descended to the red planet last month, the parachute on board that helped to slow it from more than 12,000 mph to about 200 mph, was made by Pioneer Aerospace.
Jerry Rowan, Director of Engineering at Pioneer Aerospace, said the moment the InSight lander touched down was a triumph.
“It was tense,” he said. “Everybody was confident, but when it landed it was very exciting.”
The company didn't start out as an aerospace firm.
“The roots go back to the 1930s from the Cheney Silk Mills in Manchester,” Rowan said. “It’s an offshoot of that and over the years it’s evolved into what it is now.”
Engineers came up with the design, manufacturers created it by hand, and then it is put to a series of tests.
“For a mission like this we'll make up to 10 parachutes,” said Rowan.
Only one makes it.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Steve Sholtz, Senior Parachute Rigger. “There are only about 5 or 6 people in the whole world that’s ever done this.”
Pioneer Aerospace also makes military parachutes and it is currently working on other missions for NASA and SpaceX.
“I think it what drives most of the people in this company - the pride of accomplishing something like that,” Rowan said.
This is the sixth successful NASA mission landing on Mars with parachutes made by Pioneer Aerospace.