Queen's Space Conference - Inspiration for My Generation!

February 22, 2019

Hello everyone,


It has been awhile, so much for trying to release a blog every 1-2 weeks. I feel I just missed the deadline to release another but I will make it up to everyone with this blog I promise! This week, we will be building off the inspiration of hearing the tales and advice from Canadian astronauts Dr Roberta Bonda, Dr Jeni Sidey, and Dr David St-Jacque. Their stories were focused on inspiring the next generation but I want to change the audience for this week and look at my generation, the one's who are up next to take on planetary science as a career!


On the 1st of February, Queen's University hosted their annual Queen's Space Conference in Kingston, run by the students for the students. The conference is a non-profit event, organized by undergraduate engineering students at Queen's University and was created to connect undergraduate students with the space agency. Speakers from across Canada and the United States came to Kingston to share their work, what inspired them to pursue a career in planetary science and inform the students what it is they can do to become involved in research or the space industry. The conference also held a case competition for the undergraduate students where they worked in teams to propose a solution to clearing space debris in low-Earth orbits. They only had 2 hours to come up with an idea, and the winning team proposed the use of magnetics to drag debris closer to Earth so it would burn up during its descent. Unfortunately, I never got to see the team presentations because I was setting up the CPSX booth for the student fair later that afternoon. 


So I have given you a very quick run down about the conference, now let me explain why I attended the conference.


Myself, Chimira Andres (CPSX MSc. Geology Student), and Alexis Pascual (CPSX PhD. Engineering Student) were asked to represent CPSX at the Queens Space Conference from the 1st-3rd of February since CPSX are helping sponsor the conference this year. We were tasked to promote CPSX, learn as much as we could about the conference, network with the students and speakers attending the conference, and spread the word about the Canadian space sector initiative Space Matter! After a 4-5 hour drive from London ON to Kingston ON, we arrived at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel. The conference began with a meet and greet followed by opening remarks by the conference committee co-chairs Jack Ellis and Ted Ecclestone (students at Queen's University). The audience was starting to get very excited after the opening remarks since the conference had officially begun.


The first speaker of the night was CPSX very own Dr Gordon Osinski, talking about the importance of space exploration for Canadian's and the world, how students can get experience in planetary science research and projects by attending grad school with CPSX, and planetary analogue research! After a short coffee/tea break we had the final speaker of the night, Dr Lyles Whyte who is a professor of environmental microbiology at McGill University. His talk was about his leading role for Canada in the astrobiology domain and the work he currently working on the European Space Agency's (ESA) ExoMars 2020 Landing Site Selection Working Group (LSSWG). He has a phenomenal background in planetary science research and experience in the space industry. If you want to learn more about him go to the end of the blog and you will see a list of links to pages.


The second day was chock-full of talks and activities! We had talks from four speakers: Dr Keith Vanderline (University of Toronto), Stephane Germain (GHGSat Inc.), Dr Mike Daly (York University), and Dr Gary Blackwood (Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL))! Lets go in order here:

  1. Dr Keith Vanderline is an associate professor at the Dunlap Institute and Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. His research focusses on cosmology and the Large Scale Structures (LSS) in the university. In case anyone is unfamiliar with LSS (I am still unfamiliar with it even after the conference), LSS describes everything in the observable universe from planets to superclusters! Dr Vanderline studies LSS by using the new Canadian radio telescope the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) located at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia.

  2. Stephane Germain is the President and CEO of the Global Emission Monitoring Company: Greenhouse Gasaes (GHG). Stephane has over 25 years in aerospace engineering, project management, and business development. He now has turned his focus on monitoring natural gas leaks across the world, whether it is from pipelines or natural traps (for example the methane reservoirs trapped under icy lakes).

  3. Dr Mike Daly is a professor in Earth & Space Science and Engineering at York University, He talked about his work on the OSIRIS-REx mission and how he became involved with the OSIRIS-Rex Laser Altimeter instrument. He is also building a $3.5 million dollar planetary surface simulation facility! That is the coolest thing ever! We would then have a location in Canada to test hypotheses about processes that might be occurring on other planetary surfaces.

  4. Dr Gary Blackwood is the Program Manager of the NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program at JPL. His goal is to search for habitable worlds and evidence for life beyond our solar system. Being the Program Manager also comprises many elements besides searching for habitable exoplanets. It comprises flight projects, ground instruments, technology development, mission studies, data archives, communications and public engagement!


After the talks, the undergraduate students participated in the space debris space competition. The three of us were not able to participate so we used the 2 hours to set up the CPSX booth for the student fair. Our booth showcased our Western University meteorite kit collection and impactite (rocks created and/or modified by impact events) outreach kits, Space Matters initiative, CPSX graduate opportunities, and the student-led high altitude balloon mission.

The image shows the CPSX booth with Chimira Andres (far right), Alexis Pascual (second right), and Gavin Tolometti (behind booth), and Hira Nadeem (far left). 


Next to our booth was the Students for the Explorations and Development of Space (SEDS), a non-profit organization aiming to inspire undergraduate and graduate students in the space sector. Their booth was run by SEDS Event Chair Hira Nadeem. It was a pleasure to meet her and learn more about what SEDS is doing for young Canadians. For information about SEDS, head to the end of the blog.


We got a lot of interest from the undergraduate students at the conference. Some were surprised to hear they could get involved in planetary science research at the graduate level, and others were really interested in the projects and courses we ran at Western University. I think we may see a couple of familiar faces in the next couple of years, I am keeping my fingers crossed!!


The final day of the conference was short sadly :( We had to get back on the road to London before it got dark... Luckily, we still had two talks left before the end. First was Paul Fulford, who is the Project Development Manager for Space Exploration at MDA. He talked about the history of Canadarm-2, its development since the Shuttle Program, and the major role Canada plays in robotic design and ingenuity for space exploration. The final talk of the conference was given by Kate Howells, the Global Community Outreach Manager for the Planetary Society. She expressed the importance of educating the next generation about STEM, and the public about what research goes on in planetary science and how space exploration has impacted their everyday lives. Most Canadian's don't even know they have a space program! It is our responsibility, as well as the Canadian Space Agency and government, to educate the public about space exploration. If it was taken away then essential technology such as GPS, internet, and satellite communication will disappear with it.


While on the topic about educating the public about space, let me quickly let everyone know about the Space Matters initiative! Space Matters is run by a group of organizations with several goals, one of which is to raise awareness to Canadians about space and how it impacts their everyday lives! I would highly recommend you go to the website to learn about Canada's history in space exploration, read blogs by professionals and astronauts in the Canadian space sector, and find out how planetary science and exploration has changed the world since the start of the Space Race!


During the conference, Chimira Andres created a video interviewing students and speakers about Canada in space, what space exploration means to them, and why space exploration and research is important.



It looks like we have reached the end of the blog. I have left a list of links to the conference speakers, SEDS, and Space Matters below in case you want more information. See you all again soon!


Dr Gary Blackwood: https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/exep/about/people/

Dr Gordon Osinski: www.spacerocks.ca/

Kate Howells: www.planetary.org/connect/our-experts/profiles/kate-howells.html

Dr Keith Vanderline: www.dunlap.utoronto.ca/~vanderlinde/

Dr Lyles Whyte: https://www.mcgill.ca/nrs/academic-0/whyte

Dr Mike Daly: http://lassonde.yorku.ca/users/michaeldaly

Paul Fulford: https://mdacorporation.com/

Stephane Germain: https://www.corporateknights.com/channels/climate-and-carbon/race-to-the-stars-15426216/

SEDS: https://seds.ca/

Space Matters: https://www.spacematters.ca/




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