The Canadian Space Agency announced Wednesday it intends to land a micro-rover on the Moon within the next five years as part of a partnership with NASA.
And as the two agencies prepare for that giant leap, Western Space will play a major role in helping understand what they may find when they get there.
Professor Gordon Osinski, interim director of Western’s Institute for Earth and Space Exploration (Western Space), said objectives in a newly announced grant from CSA entail research into the Moon’s geology, geophysics and prospecting – a deeper dive into processes that shape the Moon, such as meteorite impact craters; “volatiles” such as ice, to mine for fuel and drinking; and developing the best approaches for geological investigation and instrumentation.
The five-year grant, “in the multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars,” is one of two planetary science investigation grants newly awarded through Canada’s Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program, said Osinski. He is also lead investigator of the Western-led project, which includes scientists from University of Alberta, MacEwan University and Université de Sherbrooke.
“A major role for us is also to train the next generation of students at Western, and at these three other universities, in key research areas such as remote sensing, analogue research, and sample analysis,” Osinski added.
The federal announcement was part of a suite of Moon-research investments in technology and research that were unveiled Wednesday by François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of Science, Innovation and Economic Development
That includes $3 million to Mission Control Space Services to test cutting-edge technology in lunar orbit and on the Moon’s surface, a project that will involve Western researchers; and support for advanced technologies for Canadensys Aerospace Corporation and NGC Aerospace Ltd.
Faculty and students from Western Space will also collaborating with Mission Control Space Services and Canadensys in their lunar activities announced Wednesday.
The announcement set a 2026 target date for landing a micro-rover on the Moon. The CSA intends to select two Canadian companies to develop concepts for the rover and science instruments.
The micro-rover – about the size of a suitcase with a mass of about 20 to 30 kilograms – would be similar in size to the Sojourner rover that explored Mars for almost three months in 1997.
Canada has been steadily expanding its role as a “spacefaring nation,” Champagne noted Wednesday.
In 2019, the government announced Canada would build Canadarm3 for the Lunar Gateway and fund the development and demonstration of lunar science and technologies in AI, robotics and health. In return for its contribution to the Gateway initiative, Canada secured two future crewed flight opportunities in deep space, including a flight to the Moon as part of the historic Artemis II mission – the first time since 1972 that humans will visit the Moon.
Champagne also noted Canada has invested $36.5 million so far to prepare for future mission opportunities.
“By investing in Canada’s vibrant space sector, we are giving Canadian entrepreneurs, creators, engineers, scientists and researchers the opportunity to advance science and technology, and be part of the growing global space economy,” Champagne said in a statement. “The results of these efforts will improve life for everyone, in space and on Earth. They will also put Canada at the forefront of space innovation while creating the good jobs of tomorrow.”