2nd NSERC CREATE – CSA Analogue Deployment

In partnership with the Canadian Space Agency students from Western University, Queens University, and York University are running a simulated Mars rover mission from August 11-22. As the second in a series of increasingly complex missions, the simulation is designed to train the next-generation of space scientists and engineers through an integrated learning experience. In return, the students will share their data and lessons learned with the CSA for future exploration projects.

Mission control is based at Western University and is structured as with any space mission with a Mission Manager, Science and Planning Leads, and various Instrument Leads. The mission control team remotely operates the Mars Exploration Science Rover (MESR) through the Martian analogue terrain at the CSA in Montreal. MESR is a six-wheeled rover with a robotic arm equipped with a microscope and mini-corer to drill into rocks, take samples and perform analysis of rocks using its high definition microscope instrument. For chemical and mineralogical analysis the rover is also equipped with X-ray fluorescence and Raman spectrometers, as well as a Lidar for producing 3D maps of the terrain.

Using the suite of instruments on the rover the team is searching for scientifically significant rocks and soil. The team has a limited amount of time to determine how to select the best samples for science, as would be the case for a real mission to return samples from Mars to Earth. A Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission remains one of the highest priorities of the international planetary exploration community.  Returning a Martian sample to Earth would allow scientists to perform far more detailed analyses in terrestrial laboratories than could be performed robotically on the surface of Mars, and thus could potentially help to reveal important insight into Martian climate, geology, habitability, and perhaps even life detection.

Operations at mission control take place between 7am and 12.30pm, with data processing and planning until 9.30am when the plan is then relayed to the rover team, followed by further science discussion and pre-planning for the next command cycle. On Sunday Aug 24 the mission control team will travel to Montreal to join the rover team for a mission debrief at the CSA on Monday Aug 25.

Mission control is located in BGS0184 at Western University and visitors are welcome to drop by and observe between 10:30am and 12:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Technologies and Techniques for Earth and Space Exploration is a CREATE (Collaborative Research and Training Experience) program funded by NSERC and led by Dr. Gordon Osinski at Western University.

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