Western University-led conference to discuss how Canada can lead space technology

A group of outer space enthusiasts from various backgrounds are excited to gather in London to discuss Canada’s ambitions for space and technology at a conference at Western University starting Monday. 

The three-day Space as a National Asset for Canada 2022 (SNAC) conference will be hosted by Western Space, welcoming people from different sectors, including academia, business, science, and government.

Participants will explore the current and future value of space technologies for earth applications and how to observe the planet to tackle issues like climate change, food insecurity, law and policy, among many others, said Western Space’s director Sarah Gallagher. 

People aren’t aware of all the ways their mundane daily activities depend on what goes on in space, Gallagher said. These include visits to the ATM, weather forecasts, and connecting with loved ones around the world. 

“We have a whole network of satellites in space that link people around the world and they are susceptible to things like big solar storms, which can actually damage and wipe out satellites, and that can impact things that happen on earth,” she said.

Space as a ‘national asset’

Sarah Gallagher is director for the institute for earth and space exploration at Western University. (SNAC UWO website)

For a country as large as Canada, using assets—satellites in space—is necessary in order to respond to major environmental changes that are currently taking place, Gallagher said.

“The north is warming faster than the rest of the world, so it’s really important that we have good information about how climate change is affecting the land mass so that we can figure out what we’re going to do and how to adapt,” she said.

Gallagher expects climate change to be an important topic of discussion at SNAC, along with the progress of the James Webb telescope, and how studying earth systems can be helpful in caring for the planet, she said. 

It’s a fantastic opportunity for Canada to become a leader in space technology, and with the rising global demands, investing in space is crucial, Gallagher said. 

“Other countries aren’t going to provide the services or data that we need, so it’s important that we’re players in this game as well. We have lots of capacity and strength, but we can’t just sit down because it’s very competitive, and everyone’s just racing to get into this game.”

However, it’s essential to work with other countries and be careful of how this information is used because exploiting space can cause problems for everyone, Gallagher added. 

“We can only put so many low orbits up in space, and if we don’t take care of them, they can crash into each other and create a huge amount of space debris, and you can ruin the earth’s orbit, which would harm the entire world.”

Gallagher hopes this event can bring people of all expertise together to find tools and shared solutions in addressing significant challenges going on in the world.

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Johnathon Mayoral