Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover
KITCHENER -- A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA's Perseverance rover.
The rover settled on the planet's surface on Thursday afternoon. It's been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.
"The whole idea of being on a device that we're sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it's pretty mind boggling actually," said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.
The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover's SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.
"The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph," Pawluczyk said.
The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They'll relay information from one device to another.
The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.
"We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements," Pawluczyk said.
The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica's technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech's cables will help that in that search.
Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn't looking for "green men."
"They're looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that," Haranas said. "That's why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that."
"It's very ambitious," said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.
Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it's the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he's not part of Perseverance's mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.
"Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites," he said.
"It's scientifically very interesting because, even though we don't have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site," he said.
Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.
With files from The Associated Press