Qinetiq plays key role in mission to Mars

MISSION The Curiosity rover
MISSION The Curiosity rover

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THE Hampshire-based technology firm that provides technology in Royal Navy submarines is playing a crucial role in the latest mission to Mars.

A key communications device designed by Qinetiq offered support to Nasa scientists by keeping a close eye on the performance of the Curiosity robot in its critical seven-minute approach to the Martian surface.

The transceiver, known as the Mars Express Lander Communications (Melacom), will support the mission by sending commands to the one-ton rover vehicle and relaying data and pictures back to Earth.

The device, first launched in 2003, was developed by a team of engineers at the company’s base in Farnborough and will be used in European Space Agency’s (ESA) ExoMars missions in 2016 and 2018.

Nuclear-powered Curiosity will explore a crater that billions of years ago may have been filled with water to discover if Mars has ever been able to support life.

Sanjay Razdan, of Qinetiq said it was a ‘landmark achievement’.