August 1, 2005

Canadian Scientists Test Laser-Radar

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) -- A unique laser-radar destined for the arctic plains of Mars is providing insight into the atmospheric conditions above Halifax by measuring aerosols, clouds, water vapor and temperatures.

But the team of researchers sifting through this data is excitedly awaiting the day they will fit their device, called a lidar, onto a space craft and blast it into the sky.

"This is just epic - I love it," Tom Duck, one of the lead scientists on the project, says in his office at Dalhousie University's physics and atmospheric science department.

Duck is one of a handful of scientists at three Canadian universities designing and building the laser-radar, an innovative machine that will soon collect vital information about Mars' atmosphere.

The team says the device will beam a centimeter-wide laser from a spacecraft that lands on Mars for roughly 90 days after it touches down in 2008, following its launch 10 months earlier.