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Local Connections to the Cosmos Right Here in Waterloo and Guelph!

The full-scale model of the next Mars rover, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), is on loan outside the United States for the first time and will make its Canadian debut at Perimeter Institute’s Quantum to Cosmos Festival, running October 15-25 in Waterloo.

With several local rover connections, the visit will be a homecoming of sorts. Spirit and Opportunity are the two current Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) and are still hard at work nearly six years after landing on Mars. Both DALSA and Ralf Gellert, a professor at the University of Guelph, have ties to the current and future rovers. These local links to space exploration will be featured at the Q2C Festival’s Mars Rover display featuring the next rover, Curiosity, set to blast off in 2011. DALSA is also the Mars Rover Exhibit Sponsor.

This international company, with headquarters in Waterloo, built multiple image sensor chips for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, as well as the next rover, Curiosity, at its semiconductor manufacturing facility in Bromont, Quebec. The image sensors are integral parts of sophisticated camera systems designed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California for navigation and scientific investigation aboard the rovers. A representative from DALSA will also be on hand on Saturday, October 17 for several presentations on the Q2C Festival stage, within the Physica Phantastica Exhibit area.

“At DALSA, we are extremely proud to have built technology that allows the Mars rovers to take such highly detailed images of the surface of the red planet, providing us all with a better understanding of our universe,” commented Brian Doody, CEO of DALSA. “We invite the community to learn more about the potential of this and future technology at the Mars Rover Exhibit.”

Prof. Ralf Gellert, University of Guelph
Prof. Gellert was part of the team at the Max-Planck Institute in Germany that developed and built the Alpha-Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) on both MER rovers. He is now leading a group at the University of Guelph operating the instruments, analyzing the data and also developing an improved version of the APXS for MSL. The APXS is one of the scientific instruments mounted on the rover arm, where it measures the chemical composition of rocks and soils. The Physica Phantastica exhibit will feature a ‘backup’ instrument - an exact copy of one that is currently making measurements on Mars in the current rovers. The instrument will be on display right beside the full-scale Mars Rover model on loan from JPL.

"Developing, building and operating science instruments that are used to explore distant planets is a wonderfully challenging and rewarding task. They must be small and robust to survive the hostile temperatures and vibrations. Once the mission lands safely the day to day operation is about squeezing out the last details of the data and trying to put together the geologic story that is written in the rocks and soils,” explains Prof. Gellert.

Prof. Gellert will also be taking part in the ‘Worlds Beyond Earth’ panel discussion at the Quantum to Cosmos Festival on Saturday, October 24 from 6:00pm - 7:15pm. Audience members can join on-site, online and on TVO – full details at

The Mars Science Laboratory
Scheduled to launch in the fall of 2011, Mars Science Laboratory is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. Mars Science Laboratory is a rover that will assess whether Mars ever was, or is still today, an environment able to support microbial life. In other words, its mission is to determine the planet's "habitability."

“NASA’s Mars Exploration Program has attracted worldwide attention. We are very pleased to partner with Perimeter Institute’s Quantum to Cosmos Festival on to bring a little more of the rover excitement to Canada,” states Amy Dickinson, Outreach Specialist, Mars Public Engagement at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Ticket and Location Details
Free timed entry tickets for the Physica Phantastica Exhibit, featuring the Mars Rover Exhibit sponsored by DALSA, are still available on weekday evenings, with limited availability on weekends. Tickets are available online at

The free tickets for the amazing lineup of lectures, panel discussions and “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” live broadcasts that are also part of the Quantum to Cosmos Festival are sold out, but you can still join in online from anywhere at anytime, with full access to all panels and talks as they happen at

Perimeter Institute makes every effort to ensure the scheduled programming, however, there may be occasions when content is subject to change without notice. The appearance of specific guests, artists, or attractions is not guaranteed. Perimeter Institute reserves the right to make substitutions and reschedule events if necessary.

About the Quantum to Cosmos Festival
Perimeter Institute celebrates its 10th anniversary and contributes to Canada’s National Science & Technology week this October. Quantum to Cosmos: Ideas for the Future (Q2C) will take a global audience from the strange world of subatomic particles to the outer frontiers of the universe. Q2C will transcend traditional festivals by streaming events live and on demand, offering additional multimedia content online, and providing special opportunities for students and teachers. TVO, Ontario’s public educational media organization, is the Presenting Media Partner for the Q2C Festival. The Q2C Festival is produced for Perimeter Institute by Title Entertainment Inc.

Perimeter Institute makes every effort to ensure the scheduled programming, however, there may be occasions when content is subject to change without notice. The appearance of specific guests, artists, or attractions is not guaranteed. Perimeter Institute reserves the right to make substitutions and reschedule events if necessary.

About Perimeter Institute
Canada's Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics is an independent, non-profit, scientific research and educational outreach organization where international scientists cluster to push the limits of our understanding of physical laws and develop new ideas about the very essence of space, time, matter and information. The centre provides a multi-disciplinary environment to foster scientific collaboration in research areas of cosmology, particle physics, quantum foundations, quantum gravity, quantum information, superstring theory, and related disciplines. PI also provides a wide array of award-winning outreach resources and public lectures for students, teachers and the general public to share the joy of research, discovery and innovation. In partnership with the Governments of Ontario and Canada, PI continues to be a successful example of private and public collaboration in science research and education.
About the Waterloo Area
Recognized for its ability to reinvent itself throughout history, Waterloo has evolved from a rural farming community, to an industrial region, to a telecommunications and technology powerhouse. The City of Waterloo, population 120,800, is home to a strong, diverse economy and in 2007 was recognized as the World’s Top Intelligent Community. The city is part of the much larger Region of Waterloo, comprising the cities of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, as well as four rural townships.

Angela Robinson | Newswise Science News
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