mars-rover-nasa-artists-concept-previous-rover-300px

A Mars exploration and science rover prototype is scheduled to be tested on Canadian space payloads in 2012. This is an artist's concept of one of NASA's earlier Mars exploration rovers, launched in 2003. ((NASA))

A British Columbia engineering firm has won a $6 million contract to build a Mars rover prototype for the Canadian Space Agency.

MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, headquartered in Richmond, B.C., will develop a remote-controlled "Mars exploration and science rover" prototype to test Canadian space technology on Earth under conditions that simulate a space mission, the Canadian Space Agency announced Wednesday.

The rover will have vision systems for navigation and will be able to carry a small robotic arm and scientific instruments. It scheduled to be ready for field testing in 2012.

At this point, there is no plan for the rover to leave Earth, the space agency said.

However, it will be used to do "realistic" field tests of space rover technology and scientific instruments designed for use in space. The technologies could also be used on Earth for applications in areas such as mining, transportation and security, the agency said in a statement.

MDA's space missions unit builds satellite systems and develops robotics for space missions, including a recent extension to the Canadarm. However, the company's  main business is information solutions for the financial services and surveillance and intelligence sector. MDA has 3,200 employees in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.