This weeks blog is not about my research but an summary of the annual Center for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) Space Day Every year, CPSX hosts a one day conference allowing undergraduate and graduate students, and postdocs the opportunity to share their research with faculty from western, academic and industry partners and guests, and the general public. The conference also held two panels, a social media workshop for students, a faculty network event, and a keynote presentation by retired Canadian astronaut David Williams.
Along with summarizing Space Day I will also give my overall personal opinion about the event. I will say what I felt was really good about the event and what I felt maybe could have been added or changed.
Opening Remarks and Space Mining Panel
Space Day started out as a day for graduate students to share the research they had completed throughout the year. Over the years it slowly grew and incorporated more sessions and participants. This year was the biggest and busiest Space Day ever held and I have a feeling next year is going to be even bigger!
The day started out with opening remarks by Dr Gordon Osinski, the Director of CPSX. His opening remarks thanked everyone for attending the event, thanked the industry partners and sponsors for supporting Space Day and coming to Western University to share their professional career experience, and outlined the days schedule for students and faculty. Following the opening remarks was the first panel of the day. The topic of this panel was Space Resources: The Next Frontier in Exploration, which covered what are the opinions of space mining from the Canadian mining industry, are their plans to advanced technology and robotics for space mining, how can training in deep and sea mining prepare people for mining in space, and how can preparations and training for space mining benefit the mining industry today.
The panelists included:
- Neil Banerjee, Industrial Research Chair in Advanced Mineral Exploration, Western University
- Tim Haltigin, Senior Mission Scientist - Planetary Exploration, Canadian Space Agency
- Holly Johnson, President’s Business Manager, MDA
- Charles Nyabeze, Vice-President Business Development, Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation
- Mike Villeneuve, Director Central Canada Division, Geological Survey of Canada
- Michael Winter, Market Conduct Investigator, London Life Insurance Company
Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of all the panelists but I will release an updated blog with a photo once CPSX has received all of the photos taken during Space Day by the hired photographers.
Now, I am always intrigued hearing about space and asteroid mining, in-situ resource utilization, and the advanced in mining technology. Even though I focus on planetary volcanism, radar, and impact cratering I am still interesting in other science topics. I found the panelists thoughts on space mining very interesting and they brought up to good points about how Canada should move forward in this sector. However, I did have an issue with the length of time it took to get to questions. The introductions for all of the panelists took about 30 minutes and the panel discussion was only to last on hour. A couple of general questions about their thoughts on space mining was asked and that took about 15-20 minutes. By the time the floor was opened to the audience only 10 minutes were left. I felt the panel discussion needed more time allocated to audience's questions because it is the audience that wants to know the specifics about Canada's role in space mining. I think next year the panelists should have stricter time limits for introductions. I do understand they need to put forward as much as their background and opinion on the subject as possible but more time for the audience would make the whole thing more of a discussion instead of a lecture.
Research Social Media Workshop
After the first panel, the faculty left for a industry networking event while the students all had the option to attend a social media workshop taught by Sara Mazrouei. She taught us how to use social media (specifically LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram) as a tool for our research and for networking. We discussed what are the primary, secondary, and tertiary goals we want to achieve when using social media and what is the best way to structure and write message or posts (e.g. how to use hashtags appropriately, how photos in posts stand out more, being consistent is more effective than using it once in awhile). For me, my primary goal is to share my research, laboratory analysis, and teamwork skills with the planetary science community and show I am a competent student who is determined to continue with academia. My secondary goal is update fellow students, faculty, and collaborators on my research. Finally, my tertiary goal is to share my research and skills with the general public and help bridge the gap between what scientists know and what the public know about planetary science and space.
After the workshop and a pizza lunch for the students, the first poster session began. The students had the choice to either talk about their poster from 1-2 or 3-4. I was 3-4 so I will hold off on talking about the poster session until after I cover the next panel discussion session.
Canada in Space Panel
The second panel discussion focused on the topic The Return to the Moon and Canada's Role. For those who are not aware, Canada has recently announced it will be putting 2.05 billion dollars towards the space agency to join the Deep Space Gateway project and development the Canadarm-3 robotic arm. The budget is to last 24 years and the outcome will be Canadarm-3 on the lunar Deep Space Gateway research station, investing the advanced robotics and AI technology, and ensuring the next generation (my generation included!) will have the opportunity to pursue a career in planetary science in Canada. If you want more information, I have left a link address to a CBC article titled "Canada joins U.S-led Moon Mission".
The panelists included:
- Martin Bergeron, Manager for Planetary and Astronomy Missions, Canadian Space Agency (second from the right)
- Alain Berinstain, Moon Express (second from the left)
- Ben Feist, Researcher, NASA Johnson Space Center / Jacobs (third from the right)
- Mike Greenley, Group President, MDA (first on the left)
- Marianne Mader, Canadian Association of Science Centres (third from the left)
Compared to the first panel, I found myself to be more absorbed in the conversations and discussions. I am probably a bit bias since lunar research is a part of my PhD research, but I think everyone is a bit bias when they attend science panel discussions :) I was excited to hear the enthusiasm and progress from these companies on how Canada will contribute to the Deep Space Gateway. It gave me more hope for the next generations wanting to pursue a career in the Canadian space sector. With more jobs opening up, Canada will become another option for planetary science careers! Like the first panel I still felt the introductions could have been shorter so their would have been more time for questions and a discussion with the audience.
Research Poster Session
After the panel session, we moved on to the poster session. I was presenting my poster on Interpretations of Lava Flow Properties from Radar Remote Sensing Data. I presented this poster a couple of years ago at the 48th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) but it was still applicable to my ongoing research. It gave me opportunity to show the steps I took to quantify Air Synthetic Aperture Radar (AIRSAR), calculate mean circular polarization ratios (CPR), and inform everyone who wanted to know the next steps of my research that I will be conducting the same analysis on lava flows at the Holhraun flow in Iceland. Unfortunately, I did not get to speak to many people. I was placed in the far corner of the poster boards where no one really walks past. Next year I am going to make sure I am in the center of the poster boards so people will see my poster constantly.
CPSX Faculty and Student Projects
After the poster session, everyone gathered to listen to two presentations on CPSX projects. The first one was about the Nunavut Arctic College-Western CubeSat Project and the second was the High Altitude Balloon mission (I was a part of that presentation!). The CubeSat project at Western is in collaboration with the Nunavut Arctic College and together both institutions will design and build a cubesat that will be launched into Low-Earth orbit in the next few years. I am not a part of the team and cannot say much about the mission details. If you would like to know copy and head to the following address: https://cpsx.uwo.ca/research/cpsx_projects/cubesat_project.html
Now the High Altitude Balloon (HAB) mission, I am a part of the team. I am the outreach lead, in charge of sharing the science and engineering aspects of the mission at research networking events, schools, and science fairs. With the help of my outreach team Chimira Andres and Jahnavi Shah, we will be posting updates on our payload construction on social media throughout the summer. i am also a member of the science team. The goal of the HAB mission is to sample bioaerosol particles in the lower atmosphere (max altitude of 34 km) to determine what species are capable of surviving at different altitudes and understand there transportation in the atmosphere. Over the summer, the science team will be helping the engineering team test the instruments to see if they can operate under low atmosphere conditions, and test the analytical techniques we will use after samples have been collected after the launch in late August-early September. If you would like to learn more about the project head to this address https://cpsx.uwo.ca/research/cpsx_projects/high_altitude_balloon_mission_.html and follow #westernuhab
Keynote Speaker: Astronaut Dr Dave Williams
Now I could sit here and type out paragraphs about how I was feeling during this talk but I think a more summarized version will benefit everyone :) Listening to the Dave Williams talk about his journey from being a graduate student to becoming an astronaut was inspiring and also a wake-up call. The intense training and dedication someone needs to even be considered for the astronaut program is immense and it is not the career for everyone. Spending hours and late nights obtaining a MSc and PhD degree, physical training to make sure you stay in shape, undergo mental stress to determine how you handle intense situations, and test your survival skills when you are given the bare minimal. I cannot speak for everyone else but I know my days of aiming to be an astronaut are over. Before anyone says "Gavin, you still have some to become an astronaut!" Haha no no. I made my decision a while ago not to become one. I was always most interested in learning about other worlds but from the surface of Earth.
I mentioned in my Ottawa blog that I wanted to train astronauts in the field, to prepare them for what awaits them on the surface of other planets and moons. The presentation by Dave Williams has actually pushed me more towards that goal. I am hoping to "Defy the Limits" but in my own way and on my own research and career path :)
I also got to meet him afterwards and get an autographed copy of his book "Defying Limits". I know what I will be reading this coming month!