Conducting a mission to another planet or moon requires literally thousands of hours of revolutionary research and thought-provoking investigation. An important step in that preparation is to run a mission simulation to test operational, scientific, and technological concepts.
These simulation missions are known as “analogue missions” because participating researchers run scenarios that are similar, or analogous, to those that will be run during the true planetary mission.
Beginning today (Aug. 29), a team of scientists and engineers led by Dr. Gordon Osinski from The University of Western Ontario will travel to an impact crater at Kamestastin Lake, Labrador, where they will run analogue human and robotic sample return mission scenarios. An “astronaut” team will conduct a series of investigations in the area surrounding the lake supported by a robotic rover. Ultimately the astronaut-robot team is anticipated to be able to gather relevant scientific data more effectively than either could achieve independently.
“The Kamestastin Lake crater was chosen because it has a very similar geology to the Moon,” says Osinski. “Conducting analogue missions like this one allows scientists to determine not only what kind of samples they would encounter on the Moon, but which instruments are best suited to help them determine the samples that should be returned to Earth for further analysis.”
The mission astronauts will be able to do a quick intuitive assessment of the quality of the samples they select, something that would not be done in a purely robotic mission. Data will be relayed back to mission control, which is located at Western, throughout the mission.
This analogue mission is the third of three missions planned under this contract financed by the Canadian Space Agency for the investigation of the formation processes and resource potential of impact craters. This project is completed by Western with its Kamestastin Research Analogue Site for Human exploration (KRASH) mission partners: the University of Toronto’s Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), Memorial University of Newfoundland, York University, the University of Manitoba, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Arizona. Industrial partners include, MacDonald, Dettwiler, and Associates (MDA), Optech, and Sensors and Software.
The Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) represents the largest concentration of planetary scientists in Canada and has resulted in Western becoming the epicentre for planetary science and exploration in the country – particularly for graduate students.