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Optimax optics on Mars Rover

Why ROC

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Optimax Systems celebrated another success as lenses it produced for the new Mars Rover were launched into space in July.

It’s the latest collaboration between the Ontario, Wayne County based company and NASA.

Optimax Systems CEO Rick Plympton discussed the company’s relationship with NASA and the critical optics it has provided for this latest mission Wednesday during our Greater Rochester Enterprise Why ROC conversation.

Plympton said the Mars Rover 2020 mission is studying Mars’ habitability, seeking signs of past microbial life, collecting and caching samples, and preparing for future human missions with Optimax lenses on-board. “Optimax is proud to be a key supplier to NASA for many of their space programs, including all of the Mars Rovers.”

Optimax contributed numerous lenses for this latest Mars Rover. They include:

Navcams: Two color stereo Navigation Cameras, called Navcams, help engineers navigate Perseverance safely, particularly when the rover operates autonomously, making its own navigation decisions without consulting controllers on Earth.


HazCams: HazCams detect hazards to the front and back pathways of the rover, such as large rocks, trenches, or sand dunes.


CacheCam: The “CacheCam” is a single-camera that looks down at the top of the sample cache. It takes pictures of sampled materials and the sample tubes as they are being prepared for sealing and caching. This helps scientists watch over the samples as they are being obtained, and keeps a record of the entire process for each sample.


Mastcam: MastCam-Z is a pair of cameras that takes color images and video, three-dimensional stereo images, and has a powerful zoom lens. Like the Mastcam cameras on the Curiosity rover, Mastcam-Z on Mars 2020 consists of two duplicate camera systems mounted on the mast that stands up from the rover deck. The cameras are next to each other and point in the same direction, providing a 3-D view similar to what human eyes would see, only better. They also have a zoom function to see details of faraway targets.


SHERLOC: SHERLOC’s main tools are spectrometers and a laser, but it also uses a macro camera to take extreme close-ups of the areas that are studied. This provides context so that scientists can see textures that might help tell the story of the environment in which the rock formed.

Plympton said Optimax, founded in 1991, has enjoyed 20 percent growth each year thanks – in part – to great working relationships with organizations like GRE and the Wayne County Industrial Development Agency. “There is a robust eco-system for the photonics industry and educational institutions in the Rochester region. There is so much talent, opportunities, and support in the community, to support the growth of companies like Optimax.”

For more information about Optimax, visit optimaxsi.com.

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