WATERLOO – After touching the sand-covered shrubs on Mars, InSight NASA landed shots back to earth using technology designed and produced by Teledyna Dalsa.
The Waterloo-based company is the world leader in digital imaging and semiconductors and landing equipment. InSight is the fifth time NASA has been using Mars.
"It's a really good success for us," said Robert Groulx, product manager of image sensors. "Everyone is happy here."
Teledyne Dalsa does what is called CCD sensors in his race in Bromont, Que. About 30 people working on the Mars project gathered in the company cafe on Monday afternoon to watch InSight touching the Red Planet. Not long after landing on what is called Elysium Planitia or Equatorial Plane, she sent pictures from the ground from two cameras.
While CCDs have the size of a postmark, they play a major role in the $ 850 mission to Mars.
One camera is located near the bottom of the InSight landing system. Scientists will use the images from this camera to see the instruments that are thrown into the planet to measure the internal temperatures and record the motions of the planet in the bark.
Data will help scientists learn about the inner structure of Mars. InSight is an acronym for interior research through seismic surveying, geodesy and heat transport.
The second camera is mounted on a mast that will have 120 degrees of panoramic surface images around the InSight landing system. The pictures from this camera will help ground crews decide where to place the tools that collect the data.
The devices convert light into electrical signals that travel 54.6 million kilometers back to Earth, where the signals turn into digital images. It has only one megapixel, because it is harder to send bigger high resolution files back to the ground.
CCD is an abbreviation for charged connected devices. It is a robust type of semiconductors used for image processing. It's not a new technology, but it can resist violent shaking and intense sunlight. Sensors also have to work at temperatures that reach an average of about -60 ° C in the Martian Equatorium in winter.
"It's old technology, but very good technology," Groulx said.
NASA used Teledyne Dalsa sensors on a mission on Mars in 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and for the current one, which has red, green and blue color filters. In the two previous missions, the sensors operated for 10 years.
"So they were very happy with the quality of the image sensor," Groulx said. "That's why they decided to re-use our sensor for the InSight mission."
Consumer electronics such as smartphones and DSLR cameras also have image processing sensors. Custom versions are called CMOS, an acronym for an additional metal oxide semiconductor, which also transforms light into electrical signals that produce digital images. CMOS sensors are not robust enough for space travel.