Newsmakers 2019: Catherine Neish


Today, Western News presents its 10th annual Newsmakers of the Year – a celebration of some of the people, places and things that shaped the year at this institution. Before we start looking ahead to 2020, join us as we take one last look at 2019. Visit the entire list.

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NASA threw its financial support behind project Dragonfly – a drone mission co-led by Western planetary geologist Catherine Neish – to explore Saturn’s massive moon Titan. In July, NASA announced Dragonfly as its pick to examine Titan’s geology, chemistry and potential for life. Mission cost, excluding launch and operation, is $850 million.

The plan is to build a quadcopter spacecraft that would launch in 2026 and reach Titan by 2034, and then explore the moon’s geologic, biologic and atmospheric conditions during its two-year mission. Neish, an Earth Sciences professor and Planetary Science Institute (PSI) researcher, is co- investigator with R. Aileen Yingst.

Neish’s focus will be impact cratering, volcanism and aqueous surface chemistry. She called this a “natural laboratory” for the study of prebiotic molecules.

Neish is involved in several spacecraft missions with international, multi-disciplinary teams. She is the only Canadian researcher on the Dragonfly project.