Wednesday, March 29, 2017

LPSC Summary and Microblogging

I had the pleasure of attending the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference! I submitted two abstracts this year.  One on the B.Sc. thesis work I did at Simon Fraser University on Venusian canali, and the other was on my role on the GIS and Mapping team for the Canadian Mars Analogue Sample Return Mission.  I'm very proud of both abstracts, and was delighted to be able to share my work with the broader scientific community. Many people I spoke with were unfamiliar with the CanMars project, and were very intrigued when I explained the incentive behind it, that is, to test how well decision making from a rover mission control centre differs from an geological field team with regards to sample selection.  I also spoke with many members of the Venus scientific community, as well as a lava modeler from the FINESSE team (see Gavin's work for more information on FINESSE), who were very intrigued by the thermorheological flow modelling I'm performing for Venusian canali.  All of the Venus scientists were hoping that I had modeled carbonatite in the channels, but unfortunately carbonatite melt is beyond the scope of our work at this time.

Overall, I attended many fascinating talks and met a diverse group of talented people. I also had the opportunity reconnected with old friends and colleagues from my LPI internship, CPSX alumni, the CanMars mission, my Misasa internship, and people from my previous attendance at LPSC and other conferences.

I was one of the official "microbloggers" for the conference.  This means I was responsible for posting frequent Twitter updates throughout the event.  You can read my tweets here:  I found being a microblogger to be an engaging opportunity.  For one, I found myself needed to focus on how to summarize key points from talks in 140 characters or less. I frequently have difficulties paying attention and focusing during presentations (one of my undergraduate colleagues will attest that she watched over my shoulder as I read a list of "top 25 pies of all time" during a geochemistry lecture) but microblogging kept me concentrated and focused on what the speaker was saying. I also needed to write the summaries in accessible language - 140 characters doesn't give you much space to elaborate.  Finally, microblogging was very useful for networking.  Not only did I meet many of the other microbloggers, but I also had other people come up and introduce themselves to me because they recognized my name.  Overall it was a great experience, and would definitely sign up again, next time I attend LPSC!

Feel free to follow me on Twitter for more comments about the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, or to see me post new updates in space and planetary exploration. 😊

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

SEDS Ascension

Hello hello~

Two weekends ago, I had the lovely opportunity to attend a mini-conference organized by the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS).  SEDS is, as the name implies, an international student-run organization for all things space related.  SEDS-Canada is predominantly based in Toronto and places a strong emphasis on the engineering side of the industry, largely based on student membership from the University of Toronto and nearby universities' strong engineering programs.

SEDS Ascension was their annual big event, and they had invited over a dozen keynote speakers from across various facets of space exploration to speak, including CPSX's own Dr. Osinski, who spoke on "Getting the Maple Leaf Back to Mars" which included mention of the successful Mars Sample Return Analogue Mission that Gavin and I took part in last autumn.

From Dr. Osinski's talk. Many places on Earth can be used
as analogues for geomorphological features on Mars, including
terrain wedge polygons seen in the Canadian High Arctic.
Some of my favourite talks were regarding space policy and economics - that is, how do we rally public interest to support planetary science and exploration and work with government agencies to fund these initiatives? A speaker from Magellan Aerospace spoke about the entwining of space policy and business, and how we can leverage Canada's Innovation Agenda for in a push space sciences.

On a similar vein, a Canadian space economist from NASA HQ spoke about how the drive for space science needs to come from the people.  One of the points he made was that NASA has bases across the U.S.A, and JAXA has bases across Japan, but Canada only has offices in Montreal and Ottawa: engaging the people and researchers across the country would generate more local involvement in the Canadian space program.  I, for one, would strongly support a CSA office in Vancouver.  Not just because Vancouver is my home, but because of the co-existing presence of industrial partners like MDA and UrtheCast having headquarters in the Vancouver area.  Furthermore, the local institutions like the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University have strong engineering, computer science, and earth science programs - I'm sure that there is plenty of opportunity for collaborations with the CSA.

The speaker was pushing for the "Canadian Spacecraft Confederation from every province for the 150th" initiative, in which students across the country would work towards developing a cubesat, and for Canada's 150th anniversary one cubesat from each province would be selected to launch. He argued that national pride generates support for space exploration. The prospect of a satellite developed by young engineers in one's own province would drive local excitement and local support, both training the next generation of aerospace engineers as well as drive towards building a stronger space program nationally.  How can we support the cubesat initiative?  We can write to our local MPs to show our support for the program, and encourage our fellow engineering students to get involved.

I look forward to seeing what comes out of this.

CPSX squad. I took the picture, therefore I am not in it.

Myself, Zach, Derek, Matt, and Liam volunteered at the CPSX booth.  Together, we met a lot of interesting people from a variety of backgrounds.  Mostly the attendees were engineering students, but we also met a few prospective graduate students interested in the CPSX collaborative graduate program (!).

The current president of SEDS-Canada approached me at the end of the conference, and asked if I would be interested in running for board of directors.  I'm not sure if I made a good impression, they are interested in diversifying their board, or if they are just desperate for volunteers, but this seems like a good opportunity to get more involved with space administration in Canada. I've nominated myself as a candidate for vice-chair, and we'll see where it goes!