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DOE recognizes INL, DOE-Idaho teams for work on Perseverance rover with Secretary’s Honor Award

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - The Department of Energy has recognized Idaho National Laboratory and Department of Energy Idaho Operations Office (DOE-ID) employees with a high-level award for the work they did on the Perseverance Rover that landed on Mars in February 2021.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Radioisotope Power Systems Team received the Assistant Secretary of Nuclear Energy’s Achievement Award Jan. 12 at the Department of Energy Secretary’s Honor Awards Ceremony, held virtually for the first time ever.

“This award is our highest form of internal recognition,” DOE Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in her opening remarks. “It acknowledges employees who have made significant and lasting contributions to DOE. These folks help DOE live up to its reputation as America’s solutions department.”

The award, which includes five pages of names, recognizes INL, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and other supporting federal agencies including DOE and various field offices, as well as industry partners including Aerojet Rocketdyne, Teledyne Energy Systems and the University of Dayton Research Institute.

Multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generators (MMRTGs) for both Mars rover missions were assembled at INL’s Materials and Fuels Complex. The facility also produced the generator for the New Horizons mission, which passed Pluto in 2015 and is now at the edge of the solar system. MMRTGs convert heat from Pu-238 into electricity, allowing Perseverance to move around the Martian surface, collect samples, and transmit images and video back to Earth. INL’s Advanced Test Reactor is one of two sites in the DOE complex where neptunium is converted to Pu-238 (Oak Ridge’s High Flux Isotope Reactor is the other).

“I think this is beyond rocket science,” joked Undersecretary for Science and Energy Geraldine Richmond, after noting the team exceeded expectations, coming in at more than $13 million under budget and two months ahead of schedule – during a global pandemic.

The Perseverance power system was fueled and tested at INL in 2019 before the onset of COVID-19. The pandemic was underway, however, when the system was shipped to the Kennedy Space Center.

“We delivered the unit in April, so the pandemic did make traveling to Florida harder,” said Stephen Johnson, director of INL’s Space Nuclear Power and Isotope Technologies Division. The ground support team from INL was able to make it to Cape Canaveral for two days in April after former INL Director Mark Peters arranged for the use of Battelle’s corporate jet to get them there, he said.

Besides Johnson, INL employees honored for their work on the team include Carla Dwight, Jessica Winkler, Andrew Zillmer, Kelly Lively, Gregg Moedl, Jaymon Birch, Eric Clarke, Shad Davis, Craig Dees, Amanda Gates, Kevin Geddes, Joe Giglio, Brandon Horkley, Kris Kelly, Brad Kirkwood, Kade Munns, Gerald Nelson, Marianne Noy, Harmon Veselka, Kendall Wahlquist, Roger (Dallin) Williams, Drake Kirkham, Jeremy Andersen, Sueann Keller, Abigail Luing, Lucas Rich, Oracio Torres, Hannah Usher, Kendall Willmore, Jill Owens, Bob Gomez, Cody Remsburg, Jon Bradley, Darrell Wheeler, Sarah Bennett, Daniel Beaderstadt, Chris Browning, Jeff Campbell, Blake Dixon, Dylan Frickey, Blaine Hansen, Jesse Jacobs, Jamie Mitchell, Greg Mueller, Tom Parker, Courtney Swassing, Dave Verela, Riley Sortor, Mike Monson, Ben Willoughby, Cal Watson and Jon Johnston. DOE-ID employees honored include Charles Maggart, Greg Hula, Brian Anderson and Carl Friesen.

The Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program Team was recognized for its efforts in the selection of 10 advanced reactor projects, which are expected to have significant impact on the future of nuclear energy. DOE-ID employees on the team include: Alden Allen, Willettia Amos, Trevor Bluth, Marianne Boline, Jeff Fogg, Andrew Ford, JoAnne Hanners, Wade Hillebrant, Kendra Leatherwood, Suzette Olson, Mark Payne, Marie Williams and Greg Tomlinson. INL employees honored include Mike Goff, Brian Robinson and Brian Smith.

A team was recognized for successfully facilitating the addition of Alloy 617 to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code. This is the first alloy to be added in 20 years.

The team included INL employees Ting-Leung Sham, Gerhard Strydom, Yanli Wang and INL retiree and Emeritus Fellow David Petti.

View the entire awards ceremony at Secretary's Honor Awards (S4 Ceremony).

Article Topic Follows: Idaho

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