Case Study: How Teflon™ Fluoropolymers Traveled to Mars

Where No Man Has Gone Before

Since the birth of manned space flight more than 50 years ago, Teflon™ brand materials have been essential to successful space travel. Both Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, utilized critical materials that included Teflon™ fluoropolymer resins.

When NASA began planning for the Mars Exploration Rovers in mid-2000, they needed to find high-quality materials that could survive temperature extremes and sandstorms, as well as travel over a rocky, punishing terrain. With their mission 225 million km (140 million miles) from Earth—and no possibility to make repairs—each component needed to be designed with extreme care. 

The Teflon™ Fluoropolymer Contribution to the Mission

Teflon™ resins provide superior thermal control up to 300 °C (572 °F), lasting bend/twist flexibility, and unparalleled dielectric properties. These unique characteristics reduced the risk of component failures and extended the mission life of Opportunity and Spirit.

Opportunity maintained operations for 5,353 sols after landing on Mars. The mission exceeded its intended duration of 90 sols (i.e., roughly 90 earth days) by 14 years—55 times longer than its intended lifespan.

Spirit also effectively functioned more than 20 times longer than NASA’s original plan. Its mission lasted five years, three months, and 27 earth days.