Optech LIDAR Technology Headed for Mars

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NASA‘s Phoenix Mars Lander, launched August 4, carries LIDAR technology from Optech. Scheduled to land near the Martian North Pole on May 25, 2008, the lander will search for water and other environmental attributes that could foster life. Part of an onboard meteorological weather station designed to help model Mars’s climate and predict future weather processes, the Optech technology will bounce laser pulses off clouds and atmospheric dust overhead to determine their composition, movement and size. The laser, fixed in an upward-pointing orientation and able to work at two different wavelengths, is designed to yield accurate measurements of cloud height to within 10m. The meteorological package was designed and built by Optech and MDA Space Missions with input from Canadian and U.S. scientists, and was funded by the Canadian Space Agency. Optech notes its role in 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.

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