Exploring Earth with Three Canadian Astronauts!

January 28, 2019

Exploring Earth Initiative


It has been an exciting week for planetary science! On the 22nd of January, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) launched Exploring Earth, a science initiative aimed to educate the public about how natural processes and events occur on Earth and understand the science of Earth from the views of space. Exploring Earth is an interactive global map with natural and man-made features tagged with a short blog and a photo taken by Canadian astronaut David St-Jacque from the International Space Station (ISS). Every week, at least two new blogs will be released. The type of blog released is determined by what photos David can take during that week. The science content for Exploring Earth has come from a few partners including Ingenium, Roberta Bondar Foundation, Canadian Geographic Education, Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and last but not least Western University. A majority of the blogs were written by science experts from the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX). If you want to know more about the CPSX science experts follow them on twitter:

@Shann0nMars @meteorJen @SpaceRockSvenny @GavinOnTheMoon @tjahain @Zach4TheFuture @bhundey @EPilles @Elusieum @SpatialMartian @zinzi360 @jordanhawkswell @drcrater


To read the posted blogs, visit http://www.asc csa.gc.ca/eng/missions/expedition58/activities/exploring-earth/map.asp


To ensure the next generation was inspired, the event was opened by Canadian astronauts Dr Roberta Bondar (Canada's first female astronaut) and Dr Jennifer Sidey (Canada's current female astronaut). Both Roberta and Jennifer talked about the experience and training of becoming an astronaut, and how an astronauts view of Earth from the ISS can help us understand geologic, natural, and man-made processes. The two astronauts were later joined, via live feed, by Dr David St-Jacque currently on-board the ISS. David gave his personal experience with the Exploring Earth initiative and happily answered questions from elementary school children about space. If this did not inspire the next generation of astronauts, planetary scientists, and engineers I do not know what will.


 Pictures taken by Gavin Tolometti.


If you want to know more about Dr Roberta Bonda, Dr Jennifer Sidey, and Dr David-St Jacque I would highly recommend the blogs and websites linked below.

Dr Sidey: https://www.spacematters.ca/jennifer-sidey-astronaut-canadian-space-agency/

Dr Bonda: https://www.therobertabondarfoundation.org/

Dr St-Jacque: http://asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/astronauts/canadian/active/bio-david-saint-jacques.asp


CPSX role in Ottawa


If the CSA was leading the launch of Exploring Earth then why did a CPSX team DRIVE all the way to Ottawa! Well, ranging from volcanoes and hurricanes to air pollution and mining waste, CPSX science experts covered geological, man-made, and animal migration events and features! 


Keep an eye out for blogs on volcanoes, volcanic eruptions, deformation folds, sink holes, earthquakes, and mountains as they were written by yours truly :)


CPSX also ran four outreach activities: Lego rover analogue mission, meteorites and impactites, impact cratering, and VR tour of the solar system. The activities were set up to engage with elementary schools from across Ottawa and to inspire some of the students to pursue planetary science careers in the future. ]


 Pictures taken by Dr Parshati Patel


The Team!


The CPSX team was composed of myself, Dr Zach Morse, Patrick Hill (PhD Candidate), Racel Sopoco, Courtney Barrett (CPSX Administrative Assistant), Dr Parshati Patel (CPSX Outreach Coordinator), and Dr Gordon Osinski (Acting Director of CPSX). The seven of us ran the outreach activities, conducted interviews about Exploring Earth, networked with Ingenium, members of the Science and Technology Museum, CSA and teachers from across Ottawa, and promoted Canada's key role in the space industry.


 Picture from Dr Parshati Patel. From left to right, Zach Morse, Gordon Osinski, Racel Sopoco, Patrick Hill, Parshati Patel, Courtney Barrett, Gavin Tolometti.


Personal Experience


If I were to go back to my time as an undergraduate 2.5 years ago I would never have thought I would ever be in the same room as an astronaut, let alone two! Listening to Dr Roberta Bonda and Dr Jennifer Sidey talk about their journey to becoming Canadian astronauts and their passion for science made me think about how far I had come since leaving the United Kingdom. Before I left, I did not know how demanding and skill heavy the careers in planetary science were, and I certainly did not know how interdisciplinary it could be. Now, I have been involved in high fidelity analogue missions, travelled to Canadian and international conferences, attended an ESA workshop, was awarded an internship at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas, and have had the opportunity to meet professionals from NASA, ESA, and the CSA.


When Dr Sidey and Dr Bonda brought up their training I thought, "wait if I cannot be an astronaut then maybe I can help train and educate the next generation!" When I say educate I mean help teach astronauts who have no background in geology and field experience. CSA, ESA and NASA already have programmes that train astronauts, I think I want to work towards this career. It will support my passion for planetary analogue research!

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