Sunday, August 26, 2007

Canada gears up for Mars

A consortium of Canadian universities is planning to send a lander to Mars in 2009. At just $20 million dollars, the mission is going to cost a fraction of the recently launched Phoenix mission. Though the Northern Light robot will weigh a petite 35 kilograms, far less than Phoenix, it is expected to carry a varied range of instruments, such as a spectrometer, seismic and environmental sensors, plus a rover named Beaver with a 1km range. The rover will also come equipped with a number of useful instruments, including a ground-penetrating radar and a rock grinder. The mission is not government sponsored, but hopes to raise the $20 million needed via private contributions and sponsorship. Costs will be kept low by using an off the shelf launch system, such as the Russian Rockot system, which is made from converted Soviet era ballistic missiles. More info can be found at the Northern Light website.