WATERLOO – After touching a crater filled with sand on Mars, NASA strip InSight sent photos back to earth using technology designed and manufactured by Dallas Teleline.
The Waterloo-based company is a world leader in digital imaging and semiconductors, and InSight is the fifth time NASA has used its Mars mission technology.
"This is a really good achievement for us," said Robert Groxes, product image sensor for image sensors. "Everyone here is happy about it".
Teledyne Dalsa does what is called CCD sensors at its factory in Bromont, Que. About 30 people who worked on the Mars project gathered in the company's café there Monday afternoon to watch InSight the touch of the Red Planet. Shortly after the landing of what is called Elisium Planinia, or the equatorial plane, he sent pictures back to earth from two cameras.
While CCD image sensors are the size of postage stamps, they play a major role in the 850 billion Mars mission.
One camera is mounted near the bottom of the InSight port. Scientists will use the images from that camera to see the instruments that will be buried on the planet to measure the internal temperatures and capture the movements at the bark of the planet.
The data will help scientists learn about the internal structure of Mars. InSight is short for interior research using seismic research, geodesy, and heat transport.
The second camera is mounted on the mast that will take 120 degree panoramic images on the surface around the purpose of InSight. Images from that camera will help ground crews deciding where to put the instruments to collect the data.
Devices turn light into electric signals traveling 54.6 million kilometers back on Earth where signals change into digital images. There's only one megapixel, because it's harder to send larger high-resolution files on Earth.
CCD is short for a charged device. It is a robust type of semiconductor used for image processing. It's not new technology, but it can withstand violent shake of take-off and intense solar radiation. The sensors must also operate at temperatures that average about -60 C on the equator of Mars during the winter.
"It's old technology, but very good technology," said Groulx.
NASA used the Teledyne Dalsa sensors on Mars mission in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012 for the current, which has filters in red, green and blue. The sensors worked for two of the previous missions for 10 years.
"So they were very pleased with the quality of the image sensor," said Groulx. "So they decided to reuse our InSight mission sensor."
Consumer electronics, such as smartphones and DSLR cameras, also have image processing sensors. Consumer versions are called CMOS, short for a complementary metal oxide semiconductor, which also transforms light into electrical signals that create digital images. CMOS sensors are not strong enough to travel through space.