Canada's space program is entering a new era – it's moving beyond robotic arms, and is now working on space rovers.
The Canadian Space Agency is now in the business of building little vehicles that can scurry along the surface of the moon, Mars and beyond.
The space agency has long been known for the robotic Canadarms that operate aboard U.S. space shuttles and the International Space Station.
But it's also spent the past few years working to develop rovers that astronauts may eventually be driving around the moon.
It announced today that MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. has been awarded a $6-million-dollar contract to develop a prototype for a rover on Mars.
The Mars rover, which would be commanded from a remote location, is expected to be ready for field testing on Earth in 2012.
The space agency says the project will position Canada as a potential partner in international space exploration missions and maintain Canadian technical expertise in space robotics.
The technologies developed for the rover could also have several Earth-based applications in areas such as the mining, transportation and security industries.
The space agency will, at the same time, continue to develop the robotic arms that have become its signature item.