For two weeks in mid November, a lucky group of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from all across Canada have convened at Western to be part of a simulated Mars remote sampling mission.
A new specially designed mission control room within the Physics and Astronomy building is the headquarters and nerve centre for this group of planetary scientists.
Gordon Osinski, director of the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) calls this a 'unique opportunity' for this group of students, some of whom may be fortunate enough to be involved in a future real mission to Mars.
For this particular exercise, a Mars Rover was deployed at a remote field site in Utah, USA.
The remote sampling team at Western are headed by the Mission Operations Manager Mary Kerrigan, Science Lead Dr. Alexandra Pontrefact, Planning Leads Dr. Raymond Francis and Matt Cross, and the Tactical Lead Dr. Elizabeth Silber. As an example, Tactical Lead Elizabeth Silber managed the activities of the tactical team, approving all commands that are sent to the Rover, and communicating the daily plan to the field team in Utah. The Leads all work closely with group members as they plan the daily Rover sampling activities.
The Rover itself, built by MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) of Vancouver, is operated by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) with whom the Western sampling team co-ordinates its efforts.
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