DOVER — The television camera pointed toward a stage filled with top Delaware State University administrators, and about 100 students and staff members crowded into a room decorated for a big announcement.

All around, placards, posters and banners proclaimed, “DSU goes to Mars.”

“Imagine that,” DSU President Harry L. Williams said at a media event. “DSU on Mars. … We will have one of our own connected to this major effort.”

Not in the way you might think, though.

DSU isn’t starting its own space program. Nor is it involved in any plans to have the first person touch Martian soil. It’s a little more complicated than that.

While not exactly leading the charge to the Red Planet, DSU’s Optic Science Center for Applied Research will play a supporting role in NASA’s Curiosity Rover mission, which was set to launch the day after Thanksgiving.

DSU’s research helped build the rover’s ChemCam, a device that will use lasers and spectroscopy to analyze the contents of rocks on the surface of Mars.

“I feel honored and privileged to be part of a huge program,” said Noureddine Melikechi, founder and principal investigator of the optics program. “A small but important part.”