This beautiful image taken by U of T's Tim Barfoot shows the ROC-6 Rover that will be used to simulate a Lunar Rover this summer as part of an Analogue Mission. It is shown here at one of the CSA's 10 Analogue Sites: Lake Orbiter, Devon Island.
How can Canada best contribute to Planetary Science and the development of Space Missions? Should we launch our own superior spacecraft? Develop our own cadre of scintilating supporting scientists? Engineer the finest quality instruments? Well, we do currently do all of these things. But while we do posess high quality in each domain and make valuable contributions to missions, it is unlikely that we will become the largest source of either.
However, there is one domain in which we have a distinct advantage. Ours is a large country with many different environments. These provide excellent places to check-out landed spacecraft equipment and develop techniques to command them. If this testing is done in what we call a "flight-like" manner (that is to say that we force upon ourselves the constraints which would exist were the mission actually occuring on another planet) then we have a special name for the exercise: an Analog Mission.
Such a Mission should have all the necessary simulated pieces in place to mirror an actual mission. These include a realistic instrument platform (i.e. a lander, rover or other spacecraft simulator), realistic instrumentation, realistic communications and a remote mission operations team which works on a schedule that is itself suitably "flight-like."