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The Mars Society of Canada

In this country, we use metric.
Canadians Set Sights on Mars

Besides flying astronauts and experimenting in near Earth space, Canada is now pursuing planetary space exploration. With unprecedented public attention focussed on our nearest neighboring planet, the world's space agencies are gearing up for a decade or more of missions to Mars. The Canadian Space Agency is considering Canadian participation in the science and engineering of robotic missions to the red planet, and is discussing this with its international partners.

One of the Canadian representatives in those discussions is Dr. Christian Sallaberger, Manager of the Space Exploration Program at the Canadian Space Agency. He represents the CSA on the International Mars Exploration Working Group (IMEWG), is vice-chairman of the Space Exploration committee of the International Astronautical Federation, and represents Canada on the Moon/Mars Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics, where he also chairs the Mars sub-committee.

On Thursday, June 10, he spoke before an audience at the University of Toronto in a presentation organized by the Toronto chapter of the international Mars Society. He discussed current and future Mars missions, and in the context of the new Canadian Space Program, the opportunity for including Canadian technology on international Mars missions. The Mars Society is a globe-spanning organization dedicated to promoting cost-effective exploration of the Red Planet using privately and governmentally funded missions, and subsequent settlement of the planet.

One potential opportunity Dr. Sallaberger described would be the inclusion of robotic arms on the sample return missions slated for the 2003 and 2005 Mars landers. If so, this will likely be based on the same technology that has produced the Canadarm for the Space Shuttle and the Canadian robotic components for the International Space Station. Sophisticated robotic arms are necessary to scoop up rocks and soil from the Martian surface, the samples then being launched into orbit for retrieval by a follow-on mission by NASA and the French space agency CNES. In orbit, the spacecraft that will capture the samples will depend on a laser imaging system for final approach and rendezvous, and that imaging system may be derived from Canadian technology as well.

In addition to the potential Mars Sample Return missions, Canada is looking forward to the arrival of the Nozomi spacecraft, which is currently on its way to Mars. Canada is a partner on this Japanese-led mission, and has provided the spacecraft's sophisticated Thermal-Plasma Analyzer, which will measure the energy and direction of low-energy charged particles in the Mars environment when Nozomi arrives at the red planet in 2003. The Nozomi mission will study Martian aeronomy with emphasis on the interaction of the Martian upper atmosphere with the solar wind.

Beyond these missions, the CSA is considering potential participation in a host of new missions, not only to Mars, but also to the Moon, asteroids, comets, and the other planets of the solar system. As a nation with modest resources to devote to space exploration, we have and will continue to accomplish a lot. A presence in solar system exploration can be achieved by developing technology in niche areas and by flying micromissions that contribute significantly to the missions of our international partners.

Even further down the road are future human missions to Mars. While there are no commitments by any nation to this endeavour, the Mars Society is encouraging the world's space agencies to think to the future. Dr. Sallaberger is doing so. As with the International Space Station, he considers it important that Canadian industry and scientists stay involved with Mars missions. If there ever is a human mission to Mars, this will ensure Canada has the expertise to participate, and this might even lead to a Canadian astronaut flying to Mars as part of an international crew.

The Toronto Chapter of the Mars Society, formed in March, has held one previous talk entitled "Bringing Mars to Life" by NASA astrobiology expert Chris McKay, and intends to staff a booth at the Universe '99 astronomical conference over the July 2nd to 5th weekend. Dedicated to bringing Mars closer to home, this Chapter is involved with local outreach and educational programs, and the Mars Arctic Research Station (MARS) project. For more details please see the chapter's webpage at

Toronto Chapter meetings are usually held on Thursdays at 7:30 pm at 22 Russell St, room 2093, located on the University of Toronto downtown campus.  The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 24.  The dates and agendas for future meetings can be found on the chapter webpage. More information can be obtained by contacting Raakesh at or (705) 748-7687 or (705) 748-9745.

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