Kitchener technology expected to land on Mars Thursday

Thin fiber optic cables manufactured by Kitchener's FiberTech Optica are part of Perseverance Rover, which is expected to land on Mars Thursday afternoon.

FiberTech Optica provided cables to Perseverance Rover

This illustration provided by NASA shows the Perseverance rover, bottom, landing on Mars. Hundreds of critical events must execute perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to land safely on Thursday. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

Rafal Pawluczyk of Kitchener will be glued to his computer Thursday afternoon watching closely as NASA's Perseverance Mars rover attempts to land on the planet.

Pawluczyk founded and is CEO of FiberTech Optica, which made the cables used on the SuperCam device on the rover that will analyze rocks.

"SuperCam is essentially a chemical camera. So it will look at the samples of rocks from the surface and analyze them. To analyze them, they use essentially light," Pawlucyzk said.

"They look at light scattered by the rocks and analyze what signal they get back. And in order to bring that light to the instrument that analyzes that, they use little fibre optic cables, which we built."

The fibre optic cables are the length and diameter of a pencil. 

The size of the fiber optic cables manufactured in Kitchener 'are really tiny and seem almost insignificant. But they do actually provide the critical link between where they collect the data and when they analyze it,' says FiberTech Optica founder and CEO Rafal Pawluczyk. (Submitted by Rafal Pawluczyk)

Rover has been on a seven month journey to get to Mars and to begin its mission, it has to land first, a nerve wracking process for Pawluczyk and NASA, which has dubbed it the "seven minutes of terror."

"It's so hot [during the descent] that they can't really communicate with it. So there's like a period of time where we don't know what's happening," said Pawluczyk. 

When they reacquire the signal, there is a communication delay to earth of 11 minutes after the landing.

"They've done it once already with the Curiosity rover. This one, the landing technique is very similar. So everybody is hoping that it's going to go without a hitch," he said.

Pawluczyk says his company contributed to a tiny part of the project but says it's exciting as the mission could discover traces of life on Mars.