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Petition Urges Canada To Join Mars Mission

Posted on Monday, July 07 at 16:13 by polemarch1

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NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, scheduled to lift off in seven years, will be the most ambitious Mars probe in decades, incorporating multiple "rover" robots to trundle around the reddish Martian landscape gathering air, soil and rock samples and beaming real-time data and images of the planet to Earth.

"This will be the biggest Mars mission ever," Mr. Sanders said yesterday. "Canada was asked to participate and the Canadian Space Agency had asked the government to fund it, but they didn't."
Mr. Sanders said the society has already gathered almost 1,000 signatures on its petition in hopes of changing Ottawa's mind.
"We're just getting the ball rolling," he said. "We know Canadians want this to happen, we just have to convince the government."
He said the space agency needs about $250-million, spread over several years, to get Canadian technology on to the NASA probe.
"That's less than $1.30 for each Canadian," Mr. Sanders said. "For the chance to go to Mars? Come on ... there's so much potential in space exploration it would be terrible if Canada weren't there when the mission lands.

"If we don't get in the game now, we'll miss the whole season."
Canada was to provide a number of key parts to the probes, including a precise landing system, a specially designed drill to collect samples of Martian rocks and robotic arms.
However, its participation is now in doubt without federal funding.
Selena Beattie, a spokeswoman for Allan Rock, the minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency, said he supports its efforts in space exploration. "Mr. Rock is a strong supporter of the space agency and the work that they do," she said.
Ms. Beattie could not say if the Minister would make funding for the Mars probe a priority for the next federal budget.
However, the Mars Society is hoping to band together with other "space nuts" to form a more effective lobby for the Canadian Space Agency.

Although the space agency has been a resounding success in many areas -- putting more astronauts in orbit than any other nation apart from the United States and Russia and earning Canada a spot on the International Space Station -- Mr. Sanders said it has done so on a budget that has been frozen at $300-million for the past 10 years.
"Canada just can't be beat in some areas -- that's why NASA keeps coming to us for things like robotic arms or LIDAR [precision laser mapping]," he said. "But we don't get the financial support we need to develop that expertise."

Copies of the Mars Society petition are available at: http://astro.senecac
NASA was forced once again yesterday to postpone the launch of its latest Mars mission, this time aiming for liftoff today after a battery failure forced a halt to the countdown yesterday.
The Mars Expedition Rover B, nicknamed Opportunity, has been delayed since June 24 by a series of mishaps ranging from bad weather, to warped insulation to an errant fishing boat that wandered into restricted waterways just before liftoff.

NASA has until July 15 to launch the US$400-million mission before Earth and Mars move out of alignment, although NASA said it was studying alternate routes on the 480-million-kilometre voyage that might extend that launch window by as much as two days.

Note: Source: National Post, with files from Reuters

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