On May 17th the Western Institute for Earth and Space Exploration (Western Space) hosted their annual Space Day in person.
Unfortunately, due to meeting guidelines, it was an event only for students, faculty and associates of Western Space. Not since 2019 has Western Space been permitted to host Space Day in person – the time warp of these two years has made it seem much longer! But since then, the newly minted Institute (2019) has been going full blast.
The new Director, Dr. Sarah Gallagher, openly discussed how the underpinnings of Western Space has been built upon the years of success of The Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration. Space missions, that have taken years to build, are making landmark progress putting Canada at the forefront of global space exploration science – the James Webb Space Telescope, AX1 Mission, The Integrated Vision System (IVS), to name but a few. Western Space is continuing that trajectory with force.
What is most exciting? In alignment with the University’s overall Strategic plan, all missions are viewed through a multidisciplinary lens. The aim: to broaden support, foster relationships, connect space science and research to the world, and to tackle the grand challenges of our time. This enables the scientific opportunities and global partnerships called for in Canada’s Space Strategy – Delivering the Vision (p. 10).
These achievements are also increasingly attracting international media attention for Canada, validating what many of us have known for decades: that Canada offers world-class scientific research. Furthermore, by demonstrating the utility of space exploration endeavors the secular world better understands the benefit for Earth. In the last 2 weeks of April 2022, Western Space was mentioned by numerous international media for various areas of research.**
A key advantage of Western Space as an Institute is its emphasis on interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary studies. This was highlighted by a panel that included Dr. Peter Brown, Dr. Els Peeters, Dr. Valerie Oosterveld, and Dr. Ana Luisa Trejos. Western Space focusses a breadth of space honed research, development, outreach and technical work across Institutes and faculties at Western University and other academic institutions. The panel illustrated how Western Space, as an Institute, is the means to finding the intersections of Earth and Space that will fuel further space exploration to benefit mankind.
Dr. Els Peeters, at the Western Faculty of Physics and Astronomy, one of the leads for James Webb Telescope Early Release Science Program “Radiative feedback from massive stars,” gave an in-depth presentation outlining the exceptional science and research taking place at Western University. Of course, it would not be Space Day without student participants displaying posters and presentations. The focus on engaging students in real time missions further demonstrates how Western Space is at the forefront of fostering the creation of the next space generation.
It has to be said that the Western Staff who put together this event did an exceptional job in this “new normal” and transitioned beautifully.
The agenda was packed but there was ample opportunity for catching up and seeing colleagues for the first time in years. We will see you all next year at Western Space Day 2023…or maybe sooner…stay tuned!
* It should be noted that this event was kept small in order to adhere to campus meeting guidelines for social distancing and masking. At all times masks were worn by all attendees.
**The Daily Mail (UK), The New York Times (USA), Macleans (USA), The Globe and Mail (Canada), CBC (Canada), The Toronto Star (Canada), and Global News (Canada).
Note: This story was contributed by Michelle Mendes, President, Satellite Canada Innovation Network.