August 7, 2012
Rockford Register Star reports on Forest City Gear's gears going to Mars
Forest City Gear parts travel 350 million miles from Roscoe to Mars
Posted: 08/07/2012 7:39 AM
ROSCOE — Forest City Gear, which says it makes the world’s best gears, may also have the best gears on Mars, too.
About 75 gears made in Roscoe arrived on the Red Planet at 12:32 a.m. today when NASA’s nuclear-powered Curiosity rover completed an eight-month journey from earth by touching down on Martian soil.
It’s the third Mars rover project that Forest City Gear has been involved in, and CEO Fred Young said it’s the type of mission where there is no margin for error.
“If something goes wrong, I’m afraid they may ask me to go up on a service mission,” Young deadpanned this afternoon.
Now that it’s landed, NASA engineers will spend several weeks testing Curiosity before it begins a two-year surface exploration of Mars to search for signs of life, study geology and atmosphere, and conduct other scientific endeavors.
This is not the first time parts made by Forest City Gear have made the 350 million mile trip from Roscoe to Mars. Young said his company also built gears for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that were launched in 2003, arriving in January 2004 on opposite sides of the planets. Opportunity is still roaming about Mars, but Spirit got stuck in 2009 and stopped operating in 2010. Forest City wasn’t the original contractor on any of the Martian rovers.
But when the company hired about 10 years ago to make gears for Spirit and Opportunity couldn’t deliver, Forest City was hired. The same thing happened with the $2.5 billion Curiosity rover project, he said.
“They remembered they had been bailed out by us before and came to see if we could do them again,” Young said.
Young said the company made enough parts to build additional rovers for testing in California under Martian-like conditions.
“They have to be able to anticipate every problem, some of which you would never imagine, so they can extricate the vehicle,” he said.
While the Mars projects are high-profile, they represented between 1 percent and 2 percent of the company’s $8 million to $9 million in revenue in 2009. That was a tough year for Forest City, which saw business slip and employment fall from 65 to 55 people.
But since then, work has been rolling in. Employment is at 114, Young said, and gross sales are on a pace to hit $18 million, spread among 400 diverse customers that use the company’s gears in everything from commercial can openers to Indy cars to satellites.
Young said that for 35 years between 25 percent and 40 percent of gross annual revenue has been put back into the buying new equipment so the company can keep its competitive edge on earth, and in space.
“We believe we have the most advanced gear shop in the world,” he said.
Brian Leaf: 815-987-1343; email@example.com