Minnedosa, Man. company sees its tech used on Mars rover

Photo provided by NASA shows the Perseverance rover lowered towards the surface of Mars during its powered descent. (NASA via AP). NASA via AP

People around the world celebrated when the first images of Mars from NASA’s Perseverance rover became public, but for a company in Minnedosa, Man., there was a closer-to-home reason to celebrate the achievement.

Minnedosa’s Canadian Photonic Labs (CPL) has been working with NASA since 2006 on high-speed camera technology — some of which found its way onto Perseverance and is currently sitting on the Red Planet itself.

Mark Wahoski, CPL president and founder, told 680 CJOB he feels lucky that his company — and Minnedosa — could be part of such an important event.

“We manufacture the cameras and develop the technology here in Minnedosa,” he said.

“There’s software and hardware that go into these, and we supported the weapon centre track with our equipment and provide tech support to them.

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Click to play video: 'NASA releases 1st video of Perseverance rover landing on Mars'
NASA releases 1st video of Perseverance rover landing on Mars

“They get to test a lot of cool stuff over the years and we’ve just been really lucky to be part of it. You get to go down and get the little U.S. military badge that you wear. … It’s cool. When these things get lined up on the track and you see the rocket fire and that shockwave hits your chest, it kind of just blows you away.”

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Wahoski said it was surreal to see CPL’s contributions successfully employed on the Mars mission.

“I’m really thankful for our team, our engineers and our computer scientists that we have employed here in Minnedosa that it all works.”

As for Minnedosa, Wahoski said he wouldn’t choose any other part of the world to run his business from — even if the town of around 2,500 in southwestern Manitoba may not seem like a prime site for cutting-edge tech.

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“It’s Manitoba’s beautiful paradise next to the lake. There’s a stigma that maybe it could be in Toronto, but when we founded the company, our kids could walk to school.

“You get settled in the community. The best fishing ground in Manitoba at Sandy Lake is close by, Clear Lake, Riding Mountain National Park. It has a lot of attributes to it,” he said.

“Years ago, I did a bit of a program with the Canadian government and the point I was trying to make at the time was there’s more to Manitoba than just agriculture, grain elevators and things like that — although they are the backbone of our country, don’t get me wrong.”

CPL wasn’t the only Canadian company with involvement in NASA’s Mars project.

B.C.’s FLIR Systems also designed and built camera equipment for Perseverance, and the company’s Sadiq Panjwani told Global News it was a career highlight.

“Absolutely excited — I was jumping, a lot of my colleagues were too,” he said of the moment when the rover touched down safely on the surface of Mars.

“There are moments in life that kind of define you.”


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