WATERLOO – After touching down in a sandy crater on Mars, NASA InSight sent the photos back to Earth using technology developed and manufactured by Teledyne Dalsa.
The company, based in Waterloo, is the world leader in digital imaging and semiconductors, and the InSight landing module is the fifth time that NASA has used its technology in the Mars mission.
“This is a really good achievement for us,” said Robert Grouleks, product manager for image sensors. "Everyone here is happy about that."
Teledyne Dalsa makes so-called CCD sensors at its plant in Bromont, pc. About 30 people who worked on the Mars project gathered in the company's cafeteria on Monday afternoon to watch InSight land on the Red Planet. Shortly after landing on what is called Elysium Planitia or the equatorial plain, he sent the photos to the ground from two cameras.
Although CCD image sensors have a postage stamp size, they play a large role in a mission worth $ 850 million to Mars.
One camera is installed near the bottom of the InSight landing module. Scientists will use images from this camera to see the tools that will lay on the planet to measure internal temperatures and record movements in the earth's crust.
These data will help scientists learn about the internal structure of Mars. InSight is not suitable for interior research using seismic surveys, surveying and heat transfer.
The second camera is mounted on the mast, which will take panoramic images at 120 degrees around the seat InSight. Photos from this camera will help ground crews decide where to place the tools that will collect data.
The devices convert light into electrical signals that travel 54.6 million kilometers back to Earth, where the signals change to digital images. It has only one megapixel, because it is more difficult to send large files with high resolution back to earth.
The CCD is short for a charge coupled device. It is a reliable type of semiconductor used for image processing. This is not a new technology, but it can withstand strong shaking ups and intense solar radiation. Sensors should also operate at temperatures averaging around -60 ° C at the equator of Mars during the winter.
“These are old technologies, but very good technologies,” said Grolks.
NASA used Teledyne Dalsa sensors on flights to Mars in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and the current, with filters of red, green and blue. On two of the previous missions, the sensors worked for 10 years.
“So they were very pleased with the quality of the image sensor,” said Grouleks. "That's why they decided to use our sensor again for the InSight mission."
Consumer electronics, such as smartphones and DSLR cameras, also have image processing sensors. Consumer versions are called CMOS, short for complementary metal oxide semiconductors, which also convert light into electrical signals that create digital images. However, CMOS sensors are not strong enough for space travel.