Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Analog Rover Missions: More Than Just Acting Out Your Childhood Dreams

 
PVL Undergraduate Student Brittney Cooper (right) driving the MESR Rover (left) in the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Mars Yard following the end of a 2 week long analog mission put on by the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) at Western, in conjunction with CSA, in 2014.   This weekend, students from the Toronto area will get their own opportunity to participate in a model or 'analogue' space mission.

By Brittney Cooper

      In just under a week, PVL plans to host its first analog rover mission on May 27th. It’s a one-day event for upper year high-school students, and I will be the acting “rover”. Don’t laugh, this is not my first analog mission but it is however my first one acting in the role of a robot. While each mission has its own unique goals and desired outcomes, the overarching reason for conducting this type of exercise lies in education, training and outreach.
      Acting on a real-life mission is a unique experience, and it is not easy to know what to expect based upon the experiences you’ve had in previous jobs or in other areas of your life. Analog missions serve as a great tool to train and provide examples of the operation processes, hierarchy and protocol. You get the opportunity to understand how important science decisions are made and rationalized against data and power constraints of your rover or spacecraft. It’s a unique opportunity to gain insight on how hundreds of people are able to work together to design a mission from the beginning. This includes formulating the science outcomes and payloads, and then actually acting out the structured long-term and tactical planning that is carried out regularly, to achieve those outcomes. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Public outreach reminds scientists of the bigger picture

PhD Student Casey Moore prepares to give an hour-long public presentation at a meeting of the Toronto-Center Royal Astronomical Society (RASC). He is now the third member of the lab to do one of these talks in this venue!

by Casey Moore

A few months ago I was asked to give a public lecture to an audience of amateur astronomers – noting that they would probably enjoy hearing about my work with the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). I agreed – hesitantly, as I have never given such a talk. The event went off without a hitch and was a nice introduction to giving a talk to the broader community where not everyone is a specialist in planetary science.

For those interested, a brief summary of what I discussed can be found at: http://rascto.ca/content/speakers-night-speaker-announced-2 , as well as a rather unflattering outdated photograph of myself.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

One Mile Down, 93 Million to Go

 One of our summer undergraduates in the lab, Alex Séguin, pictured above, (in the image he provided himself!) is this week's designated blogger for PVL. One of our strengths is that we have trainees from all levels working together in the lab.

By Alexandre Séguin

I have done it. I, Alexandre Séguin, have officially completed my first week of research as an undergraduate student here at the Planetary Volatiles Laboratory (PVL).  After such a new and exciting experience, some reflection is in order.

    There are many stories, myths, and legends surrounding this type of work and they shrouded my expectations in uncertainty and confusion. On Monday morning, I walked into York's science building painfully earlier than necessary not knowing how my day would unfold, unsure of the daily implications of a research position... yet more ready than ever to try it. After a calming coffee, the time came to get to work.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

My Intern Experience at MDA

Over the past few months, one of our PhD students, Jake Kloos, has been doing an internship with one of Canada's best known and largest space companies, MDA, as part of his fellowship with the TEPS program. In this post, he talks about his experiences.

By Jake Kloos

Over the past 3 months, I have been interning at a robotics company called MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, better known by their acronym MDA.This opportunity came about through my participation in the Technologies for Exo/planetary Science (TEPS) program, a program in which I have been a member since its inception in August of 2016. TEPS partners with various aerospace companies in Canada (namely ABB Bomem, COM DEV and MDA), and as such, TEPS trainees have a chance to apply for a 6 month internship at one of these companies, enabling students to get experience of a different sort from that offered in academia. As I wrap up the first half of my internship, I thought I would share a few thoughts on my experience thus far, and give some insight into the work that I've been doing helping to develop and test cameras for the International Space Station (ISS) at MDA.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

LPSC: A Play-by-Play

In this post, Jasmeer presents his LPSC diary.
Above:
The PVL contingent at LPSC this year, taken just outside the conference hotel.

by Jasmeer Sangha


Day 0
Today is the unofficial start to my first conference: the 48th LPSC just outside Houston, Texas. I, along with five other members of PVL, have made this  trip together. Travelling here from Toronto was smooth and uneventful. On arrival, the group decided to register ourselves and pick up our name tags. Finger foods were provided and it was a good opportunity to see some familiar faces before the ensuing presentations. It was particularly interesting to compare how we had all advanced in our research from different branches of the same general field. I could not help but notice our supervisors doing the same. Initially, I did not think the cost-benefit of this conference was that substantial, but I can already see how this collection of experts in one location can really improve interconnectedness of our small corner in the science community.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

In the shadow of lunar waters

A map from McGovern, J. A., et al. (2012), Mapping and characterization of non-polar permanent shadows on the lunar surface, Icarus, 223, 566 – 581, doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2012.10.018 showing the permanently shadowed regions of the lunar south (in red) from a polar perspective. Jasmeer has been expanding on PVL's work in this area, adding in additional cold traps for our exospheric model and collaborating with researchers in Hawaii. His preliminary results are being presented as a poster here in Houston this week.

By Jasmeer Sangha

As you may have guessed from the posts preceding this one, I along with most of PVL am attending LPSC. This seems like as good a time as any to introduce my project which will be there in poster form. My project has grown and evolved since I last mentioned it on this blog, titled ‘The Waiting Game’. My current project is aimed to understand why the lunar poles ice abundances look as they do today. Observations have shown that water ice signatures are found near the lunar poles. However, unlike Earth, the local maximas of these ice signatures do not occur at the rotational poles. In order to obtain a full understanding of the processes on the lunar surface, my results and interpretations of those results will be built off of the groundwork done by three different people.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hunting features on Mars Northern Polar Cap

There's nothing like a good morphological problem, especially in a condensable terrain (as in the HiRISE image above). While I've been vacationing on Pluto, Giang has been investigating polar cap surface textures on Mars. He presents his results, thus far, this week here at LPSC and is hoping to gain insight on the patterns he sees in conversation with other martian geomorphologists. Make sure to drop by his poster for an interesting discussion!

By T. Giang Nguyen

As the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) creeps up on my calendar, I grow more and more anxious to show off work on my most recent and still ongoing project. I have been tasked with analyzing the surface of Mars Northern Polar Cap hoping to find any trends or pattern present on the cap.
By finding any patterns embedded on the surface of Mars, I anticipate that examining these surface features may give insights into the inner workings of the Martian atmosphere. For example, if I happen to find features that resembles dunes, investigating that may allow me to infer various properties of the wind such as its direction or prevalence. The northern polar cap is interesting because of the ice, either carbon dioxide or water, that is deposited onto the surface which allows for interesting surface features and atmospheric conditions that created the features.