One of the main drivers of planetary exploration is the search for life beyond Earth. A number of extraterrestrial targets, including Mars and the moons Europa and Titan, have been identified by NASA as having the potential to host life or to provide valuable insight for researchers and scientists into the conditions that may have been present on Earth when life started.
The Canadian Astrobiology Network (CAN), centered at Western, is a network of institutions and researchers across Canada that is actively engaged in this type of astrobiological research. And effective immediately, CAN has been elevated to affiliate status within the NASA Astrobiology Network.
“Canada possesses unique expertise and analogue sites relevant to astrobiology, and Canadian researchers have a long history of close collaboration with American colleagues,” said Western Earth Sciences professor and CAN chair Neil Banerjee. “This partnership with the NASA Astrobiology Institute will strengthen existing ties, facilitate the establishment of new collaborations, and enhance training opportunities for both Canadian and American researchers and students.”
CAN builds on the Canadian Astrobiology Training Program – a six-year, $1.5 million program funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada through the Collaborative Research and Training Program. The goal of CAN is to foster collaboration and integration between Canadian scientists and NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) partner institutions in the United States and around the world.
“Western has developed a strong research presence in planetary science and hosts Canada’s only graduate program in planetary science, which is critical for training the next generation of astrobiologists,” said Gordon Osinski, acting chair at Western’s Centre for Planetary Science & Exploration. “Western is also home to world-class analytical facilities. Together, with the outstanding facilities available at other CAN affiliates, this will enable cutting-edge research partnerships with NAI.”