On Nov. 14, the federal government awarded a $43 million contract to Canadensys Aerospace Corporation to build Canada’s first lunar rover.
Partnering with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA, Candensys Aerospace is a part of the Commerical Lunar Payload Services. The rover is due to land on the moon’s south polar region as early as 2026, according to a press release from the CSA.
Canadensys Aerospace will create the rover to operate in full darkness surviving lunar night which can last up to 14 Earth days.
Located in Bolton, Ont., Canadensys Aerospace is starting to engineer and build the rover to explore the moon for water ice as part of an international mission that’s been ongoing for decades.
“The moon is a very difficult place, because it’s very cold with nighttime temperatures of minus 200 Celsius, daytime temperatures of plus 100,” Candensys Aerospace CEO Christian Sallaberger told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.
“Crazy temperature swings, but also high radiation environment, it’s just a difficult place to design things (for).”
The moon’s southern region is particularly difficult to explore due to its relative position to the sun. While the sun shines continuously on the peak of craters near the lunar south pole, sunlight never reaches inside the craters, leaving them in permanent shadow.
The challenging environment on the moon forces scientists and engineers to create lunar-safe products to withstand extreme temperatures.
“There’s no atmosphere on the moon, so you can’t use air pneumatic rubber tires, “Sallaberger said. “So we have compliant wheels that use mechanical mechanisms to give you that bounce that you would expect in a tire.”
The rover will carry several “scientific payloads” that include devices and sensors to collect lunar data. Five payloads are from Canada and one from the United States.
One of the payloads, provided by Bubble Technology Industries from Chalk River, Ont., can detect iron and calcium and the presence of hydrogen that can help scientists locate water ice.
Besides building the rover, Canadensys will create three payloads: a Lyman-Alpha Imager to identify surface water ice, a Multi-Spectral Imager to identify minerals on the moon, and an MSI-Macro to collect similar data through mineralogy but with a higher resolution. Radiation will be measured with a device from Teledyne DALSA, a Waterloo, Ont. company.
“We’ve got two objectives really,” Sallaberger said. “The engineering side… preparing for eventually larger rovers and human missions. But on the scientific side, the main goal is looking for water.”
For humans to live long-term on the moon, there needs to be a sustainable water source. Sallaberger says the moon’s south pole is likely to have water ice in the shadowed craters.
“It’s just very exciting to be part of this endeavour of humanity, returning to the moon and increasing the socio-economic sphere of Earth,” Sallaberger said.
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