Over the past few years members of the PVL have been attending the Planetary Science Short Course taught at Western University (full disclosure: I used to be an instructor in this course when I was a postdoc at Western). However, with the Western-based exploration CREATE cluing up, this past September may have been their final year. Luckily, our recent crop of graduate students was able to attend, including Elisabeth Smith, our new MSc who joined us this spring from Rensselaer PI in up-state New York.
by Elisabeth Smith
For seven days, four members of the lab – Giang, Jasmeer, Eric, and myself – were in London, Ontario for an intensive short course in Planetary Science at Western University. This was an important course for us to take, since we had varying degrees of exposure to planetary science, given our various backgrounds. My background is in Mechanical Engineering, and though I did take some undergraduate courses covering orbital dynamics and introductory astrophysics and astronomy, my knowledge in this particular area was lacking. Because I am now a research assistant in planetary science, I thought it would be a good idea to learn more about what I am researching.
The first day of classes covered the basics. We had two lectures - one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Here we were taught about the different classes of planets, stars, and natural satellites, and were introduced to several of the leading hypotheses on planetary and solar system formation. The afternoon lecture covered various planetary datasets – that is, sets of data obtained from various scientific instruments.
We also were divided into different groups during this lecture. These groups would be our teams for the course. During the span of the week, our teams would work together on a project to develop a plan for a sample return mission to Mars. The details of this project were given to us during the first day, and we immediately set to work to meet the outlined goals.