Vaughan, Ontario, July 31, 2007 – Optech lidar technology is scheduled to be launched toward Mars aboard NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander on August 3rd. Canada is playing an important role in this mission by contributing a meteorological station to track the weather and climate on Mars. The main sensor of the meteorological station is a lidar instrument designed by Optech and built in collaboration with MDA Space Missions, the Canadian Space Agency, and leading scientists from across Canada and the US.
The search for water and life on Mars is a significant quest that has occupied the scientific community for decades. Phoenix will collect data to help us understand the Martian climate and weather, past and present. The meteorological (MET) instrument package contributed by Canada plays an important role in this mission to provide information on the current state of the atmosphere and the boundary layer.
The MET lidar will detect the presence of dust, fog and ice clouds in the lower atmosphere. Dust is an important feature of the Martian atmosphere for its impact on the radiative balance in the atmosphere, which affects atmospheric temperature structure and dynamics.
“The launch of the Phoenix Mars mission will be an exciting event for Canada,” said Dr. Robert Richards, Director of Optech’s Space Technology group. “Optech and its partners have worked hard for many years towards this historic event and we’re very proud to be a member of the Phoenix team.”
Optech’s role on the Phoenix mission dates back more than a decade to the company’s early research on Martian climate and atmospheric dust led by company founder and Chairman Dr. Allan Carswell, who was the originating Canadian Principal Investigator for the Phoenix mission. “It’s been quite an adventure to get to this point,” Dr. Carswell said. “And now we’re finally poised to begin the toughest part of our journey – a 680 million kilometer trip through space to the surface of another world.”
Phoenix is scheduled to launch from the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday, August 4 at 5:17 am EST.
Optech is the world leader in the development, manufacture and marketing of advanced laser-based survey instruments. The company offers client-driven solutions in airborne terrestrial mapping, airborne laser bathymetry, laser imaging, space-qualified sensors for orbital operations and planetary exploration, mine cavity monitoring systems and industrial process control.