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Local company Optimax has a strong connection to the Mars rover

Optimax Systems/Facebook

Thursday was an exciting day at Optimax.

The Ontario, Wayne County company built the lenses that are on board "Perseverance," the latest Mars rover to land on the red planet.

One of the Optimax instruments on the new rover is an ultraviolet spectrometer which will analyze rocks collected from the surface. Spokesman Joe Spillman said this is the culmination of a process that has taken several years, and millions of miles.

"It will shine some lights on these materials, and by analyzing what's reflected off the material or whatever new light is coming from the material, we can tell what these things are made of. What are the core things that make the materials on Mars," Spillman said.

Spillman says Optimax has made optics for previous rovers, and the company's business relationship with NASA spans nearly 30 years.

"We've made optics that have taken pictures of the most distant objects that we've taken pictures of, so Pluto and beyond," Spillman noted. "We've also made instruments that have burned up in the sun as they've flown past Mercury.  So we've been all over the place."

He said that because of COVID-19, workers from Optimax  held a virtual celebration to mark the landing of the rover.