Western University and the Canadian Space Agency are taking part in the CanMars 2016 Mars Sample Return Analogue Mission.

The mission runs now through Nov. 18. They are simulating the experience through a science-driven investigation.

The purpose of this mission simulation is to help the CSA and global partners develop and test protocols for sample collection on Mars and analysis approaches back on Earth.

Planetary surface operational requirements for science instruments, science support equipment, and mission platforms will be tested in a realistic scenario.

Samples will subsequently be analyzed by two Canadian teams – one led by Western and the other by McGill University – to determine the level of success achieved by the Mission Control team in selecting samples representative of past environments, and whether the samples provide evidence of past water, or past life.

Students and researchers from Western and other Canadian universities will work with experts from the CSA and other space agencies, as well as the Canadian space industry, to direct a rover from a Mission Control facility at Western, as it explores and caches samples in a Mars-like landscape in Utah.

This is the second phase of a high-fidelity Mars mission simulation that started in November 2015.