WATERLOO – In the face of a sandbox in Mars, NASA's InSight aircraft returns photos back to Earth using the technology developed and produced by Teledyne Dalsa.
Waterloo is the world leader in digital imaging and semiconductors, and the InSight lander marks the fifth time NASA used its technology on a Mars mission.
"This is a really good achievement for us," said Robert Groulx, Image Processing Products Manager. "Everyone here is happy about it."
Teledyne Dalsa produces what's called CCD sensors at its factory in Bromont, Que. Approximately 30 people working on the Mars project met in the company's public space on Monday afternoon to watch InSight touch on the Red Planet. Not long after landing on what is called Elysium Planitia or Equatorial Plain, it sent two pictures from the two cameras back to earth.
While CCD image sensors are about poster size, they have an important role in the $ 850 million mission on Mars.
One camera is installed at the bottom of the InSight landing platform. Scientists will use the images of this camera to see the instruments that will die on the planet to measure the internal temperature and record motion in the planet's crust.
These data will help scientists find out Mars's internal structure. InSight is a short interior design study using seismic exploration, geodesy and heat transport.
The second camera is mounted on a mast that will capture 120-degree panoramic images from the surface on the InSight platform. Images from this camera will help land crews decide where to place instruments that collect data.
Devices turn light into electrical signals traveling to 54.6 million kilometers back to Earth, where signals are converted into digital images. With only one megapixel, the harder it is to send higher-resolution high-definition files back to earth.
CCD is a short charged connected device. This is a powerful semiconductor type used for image processing. It is not a new technology, but it can withstand brutal shaking and intense solar radiation. During winter, the sensors must also operate at an average temperature of -60 C near the Mars Equator.
"It's old technology, but it's very good technology," said Groulks.
NASA uses Teledyne Dalsa sensors for missions to Mars in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012, as well as current ones with red, green and blue color filters. Sensors worked for 10 years on two previous visits.
"So they were very pleased with the quality of the image sensor," said Groulks. "That's why they decided to reuse their sensors for the InSight mission."
Consumer electronics, such as smartphones and DSLR cameras, also have image processing sensors. Consumer versions are called CMOS, which is shorter than a metal oxide semiconductor, which also converts light into electrical signals that generate digital images. CMOS sensors are not robust enough to be able to travel in space.