Canadians Teaming Up to Develop Mars Mission Concepts



    LONGUEUIL, QC, April 24 /CNW Telbec/ - When a mission to Mars is being
developed, mission planners must consider many factors. Space technology
advances, scientific needs and objectives, how to deal with distance,
communications delays, and landing through the thin Martian atmosphere-all
this must converge into a useful, workable mission concept. Canadian companies
and researchers are part of an international drive to respond to these and
other challenges.
    Today, the Canadian Space Agency announced the funding of five teams
selected to develop their Mars mission concept proposals. Each team is
entitled to a maximum of $250,000 to develop the concept of a scientific
mission to Mars, including its moons.
    Team members are scientists at universities and companies across Canada
and their technologies and concepts include

    
    - A radar satellite to study the geology of Mars
    - A rover to search for water erosion and subsurface water that uses a
      retractable sky camera to see around obstacles
    - An orbiter to study the composition and climate of the Martian
      atmosphere
    - A nanosatellite to map Mars' remnant magnetic field in the south
    - A mission to learn more about the origin, composition, and structure of
      Phobos, one of Mars' two moons

    As we learn more about the evolution of Mars and compare it with that of
Earth, we gain profound insight into the development of life-sustaining
planets. The Red Planet's weathered surface may yield clues about the history
of liquid water and life on Mars and provide evidence of any current
microorganisms. Assessing the planet's habitability for possible human
expedition crews is an equally important task for the survey of resources on
Mars.
    While the projects advance Canadian research on planetary exploration
science and technology, they also help position Canada's space community among
international mission developers. While there is no commitment to developing
the proposals beyond the first phase, the Mars mission concepts will be
evaluated further by the Agency.

    Details of the five proposals are presented in a backgrounder.

    About the Canadian Space Agency

    Established in 1989, the CSA coordinates all civil space-related policies
and programs on behalf of the Government of Canada. The CSA directs its
resources and activities through four key thrusts: earth observation, space
science and exploration, satellite communications, and space awareness and
learning. By leveraging international cooperation, the CSA generates    
world-class scientific research and industrial development for the benefit of
humanity.


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                                 Backgrounder
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               Mars Mission Concept Proposals Receiving Funding

    As part of an ongoing consultation of the scientific and industrial
communities to position Canada and Canadian expertise in future international
mission to Mars, the Canadian Space Agency announced an opportunity to develop
mission concepts. The Mars mission concepts will help define the role Canada
may play and the scope of initiatives that may be undertaken in support of
groundbreaking science. The Agency received twelve submissions, and the
following five were selected for funding.

    A radar satellite to study the geology of Mars

    MDA of Richmond, British Columbia, will lead a team developing the concept
of a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite that could be used, much like
Canada's RADARSAT-1 orbiting the Earth, to collect geological data of Mars.
Subsequent missions to Mars could make use of the SAR data to determine, for
example, the best landing sites, the best drilling sites and potential sources
of water for future human exploration of the Red Planet.

    A rover to search for water erosion and subsurface water that uses a
    retractable sky camera to see around obstacles

    MPB Communications of Montréal, Quebec, will lead a team to develop the
concept of a Mars landed rover that will search for signs of water erosion and
subsurface water sites, and possibly, find evidence of past or present life.
The mission would use an innovative small rover equipped with a
self-elevating, retractable sky camera. When deployed at an altitude of five
to ten metres, the sky cam would provide a high-resolution view of the rover
and surrounding terrain and provide critical navigation assistance for the
rover to manoeuvre around obstacles. (Mission name: Inukshuk Canadian Mission
to Mars)

    An orbiter to study the composition and climate of the Martian atmosphere

    A Canadian team led by Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, will
develop the concept of a detailed study of the composition and climate of the
Martian atmosphere. Based on a suite of chemical, physical, and meteorological
experiments aboard a Mars orbiter, this type of atmospheric research can
reveal important aspects of the history, current state, and future of the
planet. (Mission acronym: MC3M)

    A nanosatellite mission to map Mars' remnant magnetic field in the south

    The University of Toronto is leading a team to develop the concept of a
low-cost nanosatellite, that is, a very small satellite that weighs between
one and ten kilograms, to monitor the remnant magnetic field in the southern
highlands of Mars. The probe would carry a magnetometer and fly at an altitude
of 80 to 100 kilometres to gather data from which scientists will draft high
accuracy magnetic maps. Ultimately, information captured by this nanosatellite
could help scientists explain mysteries associated with the evolution and
early tectonics of Mars. (Mission acronym: MOMENT for Magnetic Observations of
Mars Enabled by Nanosatellite Technology)

    A mission to learn more about the origin, composition, and structure of
    Phobos

    Optech Inc. of Toronto, Ontario, will lead a team to develop a mission
concept to explore Phobos, one of Mars' two moons. Phobos and Deimos are still
largely unexplored despite many unanswered questions about their origin,
composition, and structure. There is great potential in a mission of this
type, given that it is much less expensive and complex to reach the moon than
to explore the surface of Mars. (Mission acronym: PRIME for Phobos
Reconnaissance and International Mars Exploration)
    




For further information:

For further information: Julie Simard, Media Relations and Information
Services, Canadian Space Agency, (450) 926-4370; www.space.gc.ca


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