According to a story in Space.com, NASA is contemplating flying a Canadian built rover on the Space Launch System sometime in the 2020s. Canada has developed a number of prototype rovers to test space exploration technologies.
Canadian rovers developed with stimulus money
The Space.com story reports that a number of Canadian rovers, ranging from the tiny Juno family to the larger Artemis, were developed and tested using a stimulus package passed by the Canadian government in 2009. The Canadian Space Agency, however, is suffering from budget cuts and the Canadian government is undertaking a review of that country's aerospace programs.
Canadian rover family
The Canadian rovers that have been developed under the stimulus program have a wide range of sizes and capabilities, according to the Huffington Post Canada. The rovers include:
The Juno is a tiny family of vehicles, some of which use wheels, and the other a track. It can be operated remotely, say by astronauts, or work in tandem with other rovers. Versions of the Juno have been field tested by NASA on terrain similar to the surface of the moon.
The Lunar Exploration Light Rover is a smaller version of the NASA Mars Curiosity in that it is a mobile lab capable to scooping up soil samples from, say, the lunar surface and analyzing them on site. It can be remotely operated, but also has semi-autonomous capabilities with collision avoidance sensors. It could be upgraded to carry astronauts, like the Apollo-era lunar rover.
The Artemis is specifically designed to operate on the lunar surface. It can be remotely operated or can travel autonomously. It has both a battery and a solar panel for power. Its wheel system allows it to turn in place 360 degrees. It weighs 230 kilograms and can carry up to 150 kilograms Like the Juno, the Artemis has been field-tested by NASA.
The Kapvik is a smaller rover designed to work in tandem with astronauts, either as a geologist's assistant with the capability to dig soil samples, or as a vehicle to travel into tight spaces, like a cave, down steep slopes, or even the shadowed portion of a lunar polar crater where ice may reside.
The Micro-Rover Platform with Tooling Arm is another tiny rover designed as an astronaut's helper and as a vehicle for accessing inaccessible spaces.
Rex is a rover designed for operations on Mars, where it would pick up soil and rock samples with a scoop attached to a manipulator arm. It can drive over obstacles as high as 15 centimeters.. Rex has been successfully field-tested by NASA.
Mars Exploration Science Rover is designed to gather rock and soil samples on Mars for analysis. It comes equipped with a microscope and an instrument for taking core samples. It is designed as part of a sample return mission. It weighs 250 kilograms and can carry 70 kilograms of equipment.
The Space Launch System as a launch vehicle for a Canadian rover
Space.com reports that the Space Launch System has been manifested for two flight, an unmanned flight in 2017, and a manned lunar orbit flight as late as 2021, with other flight opportunities under review. NASA notes that the initial capability for the SLS is 70 metric tons to low Earth orbit, building up to 130 metric tons later. This suggests that a flight, either to the moon or Mars, might involve a Canadian rover as a secondary payload, since the heaviest masses just over 1,000 kilograms with science equipment.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.