MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. announced today that the company's subsidiary, MD Robotics has been awarded a $150,000 study contract by the Canadian Space Agency for the Canadian contribution to a U.S.-led Phoenix Mars Scout mission.
During this mission definition study, MD Robotics will work with Toronto- based Optech and with members of the Canadian scientific community to carry out engineering studies and conceptual design for potential Canadian elements of the mission. The elements include a laser-based scientific instrument to conduct atmospheric studies on the planet, as well as a laser sensor that will ensure a safe and accurate spacecraft landing on Mars.
Competing with 20 proposals, Phoenix is one of 4 finalists selected by NASA for the mission definition studies. In the second half of 2003, NASA will select which of these four proposals will be the first Scout mission to be fully developed and sent to Mars in 2007.
Dr. Christian Sallaberger, Director of Space Exploration at MD Robotics stated, "The work we are executing under this contract will help position Canada to play a critical partnership role with NASA in the first mission of the Mars Scout program in 2007."
Dr. Alain Berinstain, the Mars Lead at CSA, commented, "The Canadian Space Agency is pleased to support this work and proud that Canadian scientific and technical excellence is being recognized by our American partners in the exploration of Mars".
The primary scientific goals of the Phoenix mission are to "Follow the Water" by studying the presence and history of water on the Red Planet and to search for habitable zones by assessing liquid water and any organic or biologically interesting materials. A suite of landed science instruments will determine the suitability of Mars for human exploration, including in-situ production of propellants and radiation and dust hazard evaluation, and will also investigate soil mineralogy and geochemistry, as well as measure atmospheric aerosols. The mission Principal Investigator is Dr. Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, and the lead Canadian scientist is Dr. Alan Carswell, Professor Emeritus at York University and Founder and Chairman of Optech Incorporated.
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