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From Mason to Mars: One local tech firm's role in sending rover Perseverance to the Red Planet

Posted at 4:54 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 19:33:14-05

MASON, Ohio — When the rover Perseverance landed on the surface of Mars Thursday afternoon, it was the first time NASA had sent one in a decade. And the space agency couldn't have done it without the work of one Tri-State technology firm.

"It's a really big deal," said Mark Dapore, technical director of space avionics at L3Harris - Space & Sensors.

L3Harris, headquartered in Florida with a facility in Mason, not only helped create components for the Atlas V rocket that launched Perseverance to Mars, but it also designed and built critical communications technology that will link the rover to Earth while it explores the planet.

Dapore called Thursday a "really, really proud day."

"It's very few people in the whole world that can actually say they have built or designed a product that is operational on the surface of another planet," he told WCPO.

L3Harris' ultra-high frequency transceiver, mounted inside the rover itself, will let Perseverance share data with satellites orbiting Mars. The device lets NASA receive information from the rover and also send daily commands.

About 100 L3Harris employees were directly involved in designing and building the part.

University of Cincinnati astrobiologist Dr. Andy Czaja said he'll rely on the parts Dapore's team designed to do his part in Perseverance's mission.

"This mission is to look for evidence of ancient life," said the professor, who has worked previously on other Mars rover missions. "So, life that existed billions of years ago on the surface."