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INDEPTH: SPACE » MARS
A Canadian contribution?
Ioanna Roumeliotis, CBC News | July 2003


Prototype for the CanaDrill
With the rush of new Mars missions in the 21st century, comes the opportunity for Canada to make its first major contribution to Mars exploration.

In 2009, NASA plans to send its largest lander to Mars since Viking 1 in 1975. Canadian technology could play a big role in the mission, from the laser-guided landing to the exploration and drilling.

But the cutting-edge technology has a price: $250 million. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) says it's an investment opportunity Canada shouldn't pass up.

"Let's say we were to invest $100 million in this opportunity with our industry. The rest of the world recognizes these companies for their expertise and that generates a bunch of new income for them," says the CSA's Alain Berinstain.

Here are the ideas pitched by Canadian companies.




Prototype for the CanaDrill
Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT) and
Electric Vehicle Controllers Ltd.

Sudbury, Ont.
Called the CanaDrill, the drill could punch through a harsh combination of rock types, which scientists believe they'll come up against on Mars. The lightweight version of the prototype could drill two metres below the surface of Mars.

MD Robotics
Richmond, B.C.
MD Robotics created an arm that could scoop up rock and soil samples from the Martian surface and manipulate the CanaDrill. The arm, or a set of arms working together, would do a number of jobs, including preliminary analysis, processing (i.e. grinding, crushing, polishing) and distribution of the samples.
MD Robotics is the renamed company behind the Canadarm.

Optech Inc.
Toronto, Ont.
Optech had designed a landing device that could revolutionize future landing missions. Mars landings are now based on good guesses. Guided by microwave images, NASA's newest rovers will be dropped from the spacecraft and protected by air bags. They'll bounce to a stop, hopefully close to where they want to be.
Optech developed a radar-like device that uses a laser to navigate a smarter and safer landing by avoiding hazards when it lands. The same technology could be used to help the rovers avoid hazards, such as rocks or cliffs, while moving on the Martian terrain.




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MARS FACTS:
Diameter: 6,787 kilometres

Length of day in Earth hours: 24 hours, 37 minutes, 26 seconds

Length of year in Earth days: 686.98

Highest point on surface: Olympus Mons (about 24 kilometres above surrounding lava plains)

Atmospheric components:
95% carbon dioxide
3% nitrogen
1.6% argon

RELATED:
"Attacking Mars", CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks

The long journey to Mars

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Mars Exploration Rover Mission

Chronology of Mars Exploration

CanaDrill

NORCAT

Electric Vehicle Controllers Ltd.

MD Robotics

Optech

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