Lander and rover missions, combined with exquisite satellite images have revealed much about the surface of Mars. But what about the ~3400 km of rock and metal that lies between the surface and the planet’s center? We know very little about the deep interior, yet it is the ‘engine’ that drives the planet’s evolution. In November 2018, the InSight mission landed on Mars to begin two years of detective work to look deep inside the Red Planet. Left: December 4th, 2018 image from InSight’s robotic-arm mounted Instrument Deployment Camera showing the spacecraft’s deck, with the Martian surface of Elysium Planitia in the background. In the foreground, a copper-colored hexagonal cover protects the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure instrument (SEIS), a seismometer that will measure marsquakes. The gray dome behind SEIS is the wind and thermal shield, which will be placed over SEIS. To the left is a black cylindrical instrument, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3). HP3 will drill up to 16 feet (5 meters) below the Martian surface, measuring heat released from the interior of the planet. Above the deck is InSight’s robotic arm, with the stowed grapple directly facing the camera. Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech. Right: SEIS deployed onto the surface of Mars on December 19th, 2018. This was the first time a spacecraft robotically placed a seismometer onto the surface of another planet. The image was taken around Martian dusk. Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech.   Geophysicist, Dr. Catherine Johnson, has been working with PhD student Anna Mittelholz at the University of British Columbia to prepare for the InSight mission by better understanding Mars’ interior through studies of the planet’s magnetic field.  InSight will measure the planet’s vital signs: listening for quakes, measuring the heat being lost from Mars, but also carefully monitoring the environment at the landing site.  Part of that monitoring includes measuring magnetic fields. Magnetic fields can tell us about Mars atmosphere and its interior. Like on Earth, Mars’ upper atmosphere is ionized by solar radiation and this creates small magnetic fields that change from day to night. However, unlike Earth, Mars has no present-day global magnetic field, but satellite data indicate that rocks near the surface were magnetized in an ancient field. InSight will, for the first time, measure the magnetic field on the surface of Mars. Those measurements will tell us how strongly... Read more
In today’s world everyone is just a phone call, email, or text away. We can have on-screen face-to-face conversations with loved ones around the world, share photos and videos to social media instantly, or conduct meetings with international business partners without ever leaving the office. The world is literally at our fingertips. Satellites have revolutionized the way we connect and communicate, and Canada was at the forefront of this change. On November 9, 1972, Canada became the first country in the world to launch a domestic communications satellite, “Anik A1”, into geostationary orbit – Anik means ‘little brother’ in Inuit. For the first time, people in the far north received TV and telephone signals. The satellite’s ingenious design allowed for coverage across all of Canada. The antenna was designed in such a way that it was aimed at Canada at all times, and the signals were transmitted by a beam that was shaped to cover the entire country. A geostationary orbit means the satellite’s movement was in sync with Earth’s rotation and therefore stayed positioned above us. Two more identical satellites (Anik A2 and Anik A3) were launched shortly after. Having three satellites ensured continuous service and backup to cover failures. All three satellites were owned and operated by Telesat Canada. For over 10 years, Anik A1 relayed telephone calls, data, and TV signals on 12 channels. We often take for granted the ease at which we are able to connect with the world. Even when travelling is a challenge, satellites can bring the world to you. Being able to communicate and share means the world can work and grow together. This global connection truly is one of the greatest benefits of space science and... Read more
During the mid-20th century, the race to space was in high gear. After years of preparation the first nations made it to the finish line. Following the Soviet Union and the United States, Canadians celebrated a proud moment in history after successfully launching their first space satellite, Alouette-1, becoming the third country in space. How it all got started Shortly after its creation in 1958, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) invited Canada to collaborate in its satellite program. Two Canadian scientists from Canada’s Defence and Research Telecommunications Establishment (DRTE), John Chapman and Eldin Warren, promptly responded with a proposal to design and build a Canadian satellite that could monitor Earth’s ionosphere (a layer of Earth’s atmosphere) and the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). The proposal was approved, and Chapman and his team of DRTE scientists got to work on the design and construction of two identical satellites: Alouette-1 and Alouette-2. Success After three and a half years of work, Alouette-1 was ready. On September 29, 1962, the 320-lb satellite was launched from the Pacific Missile Range in California. Designed to last only one year, Alouette-1 surpassed expectations by continuing to operate for a decade, capturing over one million images. Following this success, Canada and the United States joined forces, launching a new program called the International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies (ISIS). Under the ISIS program, three other satellites were successfully launched: Alouette-2 (1965), ISIS I (1969), and ISIS II (1970). The data collected from these satellites supported over 1200 scientific papers on the physical processes of our upper atmosphere. A legacy is born The success of Alouette-1 marked the beginning of a strong relationship between not only Canada and the United States but nations all... Read more