The 2019 CanMoon Mission is a Canadian lunar sample return analogue joint mission between Western University (PI: Dr. Gordon Osinski), the University of Winnipeg (PI: Dr. Ed Cloutis), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) aimed to position Canada for potential future contributions to lunar rover missions by training highly qualified personnel. CanMoon is a scientific mission based out of mission control at the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) at Western University. Faculty, researchers, and post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students will be commanding a simulated rover in realtime to investigate a lunar-like analogue terrain of Lanzarote, Spain. We invite you to explore and follow the mission as it unfolds from August 5th to August 16th, 2019.

The mission will be divided into three teams: Science Team, Planning Team, and Field Team. The Science Team will be based in mission control at Western University and will be responsible for deciding the scientific measurements they want the rover to take, analyzing the data it returns, and deciding what rocks they want to sample. The Planning Team will also be located at Western University, but their role will be directly commanding the rover by taking the directions provided by the Science Team and inputting the rover. Finally, the Field Team will be the acting rover in Lanzarote, Spain. They will be taking the measurements, photographs, and relaying back to Mission Control in real-time.

Explore the features below to learn more about the CanMoon Mission.

Logos for Western University, CSA, and University of Winnipeg

Science Objectives

As with every planetary science mission, the mission control team has several scientific objectives that they must meet. Through the rover's instrumentation, the team will select samples to drill and scoop in the landing and return to Western University. The samples must address the following scientific objectives:

1) Determine the diversity of rocks in the landing site region; 2) Identify and collect the best samples for age dating; 3) Identify and collect the most volatile-rich rocks; and 4) Explore for crustal and mantle material in the landing site region.

Operational Objectives

The CanMoon mission is funded through the CSA's Fieldwork for the Advancement of Science and Technology - Lunar Exploration Analogue Deployment (FAST-LEAD) program. Beyond the training of high-qualified personnel, CanMoon seeks to optimize the mission control operations required for continuous exploration on the lunar surface. As such the mission will evaluate the following operational objectives to prepare Canada for future contributions to the Moon.1) Compare the accuracy of selecting lunar samples remotely from mission control versus a traditional human field party; 2) Test the efficiency of remote science operations including the use of pre-planned strategic traverses; 3) Evaluate the utility of real-time automated data analysis approaches for lunar missions; 4) Explore the mission control operations structure for 24/7 lunar science operations; and 5) Test how Virtual Reality technology can be used to help with enhancing the situational awareness in mission control

Mission Control

It is well known that the ability to communicate effectively with superiors, colleagues, and staff is essential, no matter what industry you work in. All members of the mission gain experience in interpersonal communication and leadership by working in teams under challenging conditions. Effective teamwork and communication skills are critical for the success of space missions, where teams can be comprised of people from diverse backgrounds. Within a real-time mission, such as CanMoon, mission control is a dynamic room of operations that requires a high level of organization in order to succeed.

The mission is primarily divided into three main teams: the field team, the planning team, and the science team. The science team is further divided into a processing and interpretation team, allowing for data analysis to occur while operations are ongoing. Each instrument on the rover has a lead that is in charge of processing and sequence commands for the said instrument. The planning team is directly in control of the rover and takes the commands from the science team and inputs them into the rover. The field team is the rover in Lanzarote, Spain and will be taking the measurement and commands issued from mission control at Western University. A full breakdown of the mission control organization can be found below.

Organizational chart of the mission control. Accessibility transcript below.

Accessibility Transcript

This image is a flowchart highlighting the managerial organization of mission control.

  1. Principle Investigators
    1. Mission Operations Manager 
      1. Mission Evaluation Team
    2. Technical Assurance Manager
    3. Co-Investigators
    4. Field Lead
      1. Field Team
    5. Planning Lead
      1. Planning Team
    6. Science Lead
      1. Science Processing Team
      2. Science Interpretation Team

The Science Team is further broken down:

  1. Science Lead
    1. Science Processing Team
      1. Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS)
      2. Ultraviolet-visibile-Near-infrared spectroscopy (UV-VIS-NIR)
      3. Raman Spectroscopy
      4. Panorama Camera (PanCam)
      5. Remote Microscopic Imager
    2. Science Interpretation Team
      1. Geochemistry
      2. Mineralogy
      3. Remote Sensing

Past Missions

Over the past decade, CPSX has become a hub of analogue mission deployments within Canada and the United States. Most recently in 2015 and 2016, CPSX led two Mars sample return mission in Utah, USA where the CSA's rover, MESR, was commanded directly from Western University's mission control to identify a limited number of samples to return to "Earth". CPSX prizes itself on training the next generation of planetary explorers.

Beyond becoming an intensive training experience, these analogue missions provide an opportunity to learn important lessons for real planetary science mission operations. They also provide a unique tool for exploring geologically interesting sites of interested and understanding their geologic past. Below we have highlighted several of the scientific journals and publications that have come out of these missions.

CanMoon in the News

Keep up with CanMoon stories in the local, regional, and national news.

Globe and Mail - The once and future moon

"Since Neil Armstrong’s ‘one small step for man’ in 1969, humans have trod on only a small part of the lunar surface. Now the moon is attracting a new generation of space explorers and entrepreneurs...".

Read the whole story here.

CBC The National - How Apollo 11 inspires these PhD students to chase careers in aerospace

CBC Radio London Morning - Western University's lunar mission

CBC reporter Robin De Angelis stopped by mission control at Western University as students are preparing simulation lunar rover missions on the Canary Islands. 

Listen to the whole segment here.

CSA - The CSA awards funding to prepare for future missions to the Moon

"The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded funding worth $700,000 to a Canadian firm and two universities for projects that will enable Canadian firms to advance key technologies and develop their own potential, while offering training opportunities and hands-on experience for students and young professionals..."

Read the whole story here.

SpaceQ - Canada Takes Another Step Towards Sending a Rover to the Moon

"The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) awarded another four contracts valued at $700,000 under the Flights and Fieldwork for the Advancement of Science and Technology (FAST) program, this time for research related to a possible future moon rover...."

Read the whole story here.