Western launches new space program

Some students are chastised for having their heads in space. A new training program led by The University of Western Ontario will ensure they are rewarded for it – for thinking about space in new ways, that is.

Awarded $1,649,656 by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Wednesday, the new program, led by Western Earth Science and Physics & Astronomy professor Gordon Osinski, will ensure Canada meets its growing need for Earth and planetary scientists and engineers.

Its overall objective is to train students in the latest technologies and techniques used to explore both this world and other planetary bodies.

“We plan to capture the excitement of planetary exploration by creating the first cross-disciplinary, multi-institutional training program in Technologies and Techniques for Earth and Space Exploration in the world,” Osinski says.

With funding from NSERC’s CREATE (Collaborative Research and Training Experience) program, the initiative will provide students with the ability to perform, interpret and integrate observations made using cutting-edge analytical instrumentation and robotic technologies.

“Such training initiatives are essential as we face a resource-challenged century and a renewed interest in the exploration of Earth and the solar system in general,” Osinski adds. “Similarly, there is a need for engineers to build the next generation of exploration technologies.”

Through internships, fieldwork and traditional classroom settings, engineers and scientists from Western, University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, Memorial University and Queen’s University will train and work side-by-side in preparation for careers in the field.

The program will focus on four core areas, including Earth and planetary materials research; mechatronic tools for materials handling; imaging and analysis instrumentation; and exploration surface systems.

With nearly 100 members, Western’s Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) is already the largest of its kind in Canada. The university is also the first international partner of the NASA Lunar Science Institute and home to the Canadian Lunar Research Network.

“This training program represents a collective effort to form a strategic partnership between industry, academia and government,” Osinski says.