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

xThrough 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.

Highlighted Collaborations

NSERC CREATE - Technologies and Techniques for Earth and Space Exploration

“Technologies and Techniques for Earth and Space Exploration” is an NSERC CREATE program led by Western Space Associate Director Dr. Gordon Osinski, with ten Co-Investigators at UTIAS, York University, Queen’s University, Memorial University and the University of British Columbia. Engineers and scientists train and work side-by-side, and unique opportunities for sharing expertise within and among institutions are provided by means of short courses, interdisciplinary co-supervision of students, Blackboard Collaborate! webconferencing software, internships, annual meetings and the CSA analogue deployment program. Our goal is to prepare Canadian trainees to enter the fields of planetary science, robotic engineering, economic geology and instrumentation development by taking advantage of unique resources and expertise found in Canada and around the world. For more information, please visit

The Canadian Astrobiology Network

The Canadian Astrobiology Network (CAN) is a cohort of institutions and researchers across Canada which is actively engaged in astrobiological research. The CAN builds on the Canadian Astrobiology Training Program – a six-year ~$1.5M program funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through the Collaborative Research and Training Program. The goal of CAN is to foster collaboration and integration between Canadian scientists and NAI (NASA Astrobiology Institute) partner institutions in the U.S. and around the world.

The Canadian Lunar Research Network

In July 2008, the Canadian Lunar Research Network (CLRN) became the first international affiliate partner of NASA’s new Lunar Science Institute (NLSI). Its mission is to foster collaboration amongst Canadian researchers and promote integration with other NLSI partner institutions, both in the U.S. and around the world. The overarching goal of this network is to train highly qualified personnel and develop expertise in lunar science and exploration. Additionally, the CLRN hopes to extend our enthusiasm of lunar exploration to the general public though outreach.