Western researchers wearing space suits crossing the desert

Understanding the Universe through the exploration of frontiers on Earth and in space is a major scientific endeavour that involves tackling some of the major outstanding scientific questions of our time. In parallel, developing the technology required for space exploration represents one of the most challenging engineering opportunities of our time and is an economic and innovation driver for advanced technologies. At the same time, there are increasing commonalities in the techniques and technologies being applied to the exploration of remote and/or extreme locations on Earth, such as Arctic Canada, and deep underground mines, and the exploration of Space. Space also provides a unique way to attract the brightest young minds to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields and engage them in research.
Research conducted by faculty and students under the umbrella of the Institute covers six fundamental Research Themes:

  • Earth Observation, Monitoring and Protection
  • Exploration Technologies
  • Planetary Processes and Materials
  • Galactic and Stellar Processes
  • Space Health
  • Space Policy and Law

Through consultations with Institute faculty, staff, and students, and various internal and external stakeholders, the Institute has developed a strategic roadmap that outlines the goals, objectives, and outcomes for the next 5 years. This roadmap contains our 3 major research goals and objectives which will lead to the realization of our vision:


The Vision of the Institute is to launch Western into space and bring space down to Earth for the benefit of all Canadians.

Goals and Objectives:

In achieving this vision, our is to establish Western as an international leader in interdisciplinary research, and an epicenter for training and outreach for 21st century explorers. The Institute will promote and support problem- and team-based interdisciplinary research focused on 3 major research goals:

Goal 1

Remotely explore and characterize the Solar System and the Universe beyond.

Goal 2

Contribute to the sustainable human exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Goal 3

Bring the benefits of space science and technology down to Earth.

Bridging these goals are 6 “Big Questions” that are both profound and challenging, and that will be the focus of Institute activities over the coming years:

  1. How do planets, stars and galaxies form and evolve?
  2. How and when did life originate on Earth and possibly on other worlds in the Universe?
  3. How can we better monitor our environment in a rapidly changing world?
  4. How can we ensure the protection of life on Earth from terrestrial and extraterrestrial threats?
  5. How can we facilitate the identification and sustainable extraction of resources on Earth and throughout the solar system?
  6. How do we ensure that humans remain healthy and alive in space?

Linking these research goals, questions, and themes, we identify the following key Interdisciplinary Research Strengths that bring together Institute faculty:

  • Remote Science: Investigating objects and places where people can’t go, from the centre of the Earth to distant galaxies; includes experimental, observational, theoretical and computational studies.
  • Contact Science: Investigating samples in situ from the Earth and other objects in the Solar System (i.e., astromaterials), including the necessary laboratory work in support of such science.
  • Autonomous Science: Enabling remote and contact science to be conducted autonomously on Earth and in Space.
  • Exploration Science: The science of human exploration of the Solar System, including the science to enable humans to explore, and survive, as well as the science enabled by human exploration.