One of the Dalhousie University researchers who helped design a laser to measure weather patterns on Mars says the landing of NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander means “the real excitement” can begin.

“An important goal of the mission is to try to understand the water cycle, and so we will be very interested to see if there are clouds and fogs amongst the dust,” Tom Duck wrote in an e-mail.

Duck and Cameron Dickinson helped design the LIDAR, which uses laser beams to analyze the atmosphere, for the mission. It’s the first time LIDAR technology — which stands for light detection and ranging — has been used on another planet.


Details about the weather on Mars will be gathered by the LIDAR and transferred to the two researchers, who are based at the University of Arizona.

“We will also be keenly watching what is happening with other instruments on the lander, and in particular whether or not Phoenix ‘tastes the water’ in ice thought to exist not far below the surface.”
The spacecraft blasted off from the Kennedy Space Centre on Aug. 4, 2007, and landed safely on Mars on Sunday night.

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