Sunday, December 7, 2014

Canadian Northern Light Mission to Mars seeks Crowdfunding

A prototype of the Canadian Beaver rover that could arrive at Mars in 2018. 

Credit: Thoth Technology

A Canadian company wants to land a couple of robots on Mars in late 2018, but to do so, it might need your help.

For the mission, called Northern Light, Thoth Technology plans to deliver a lander and a mini rover called "Beaver" to the Red Planet in the next four years, and the company is asking space fans to help crowdfund the huge undertaking.

The Northern Light mission will look for biomarker gases (those that could indicate biological sources) like methane, and will have the capability to grind into rocks, to find out the environment in which they were formed.

No landing site has been selected yet, but it will likely be close to the equator for maximum sunshine.

Northern Light Lander and Robotic Arm

A key challenge, however, will be obtaining sufficient funding. The full cost of the mission has not been disclosed publicly, but development costs are expected to add up to $980,000, Roberts said.

An Indiegogo campaign has raised roughly C$6,000 ($5,320) of that, and will close Jan. 3.

Caroline Roberts, president and CEO of Thoth Technology, said she prefers not to speculate on what will happen, or what other funding avenues would be pursued, if the crowdfunding campaign doesn't raise its goal of $1 million CAD.

“We're hoping it will be successful," Roberts told reporters. "We carry on, regardless of the level of hope. We're not stopping."

More money will be needed to buy a ride on a rocket and to operate the mission from the Algonquin Radio Observatory, a Canadian telescope owned by Thoth that would serve as the link between Mars and Earth.

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