Mars @ MaRS: Celebrating year two of the Science Media Centre of Canada with a look at Canadian space science

Mars @ MaRS: Celebrating year two of the Science Media Centre of Canada with a look at Canadian space science

This summer, a module holding the Mars rover Curiosity slammed into the atmosphere of Mars, heat shield first. After throwing out a parachute, it used rockets to hover gently above the ground and lowered the car-sized rover on a tether to the surface of the “Red Planet.”

The entire drama lasted only seven minutes, but folks on Earth were glued to the video of the nail-biting descent and the mission’s control room erupting in cheers when it succeeded. Why? Because this is what science is all about: people innovating and co-operating in endeavours that amaze us.

We’ll have a chance to hear some of those stories on Monday, October 22, at 7:00 p.m., when the Science Media Centre of Canada (SMCC) celebrates its second annual general meeting with an exciting event at MaRS Discovery District.

The Canadian connection

“Mars @ MaRS: From ‘Curiosity’ to Innovation” features the latest information on the Curiosity rover as well as on the upcoming satellite refuelling mission in space. You’ll hear from both veteran scientists and the new generation of space engineers. Canadian science journalist, author and broadcaster Jay Ingram will moderate the discussion.

Returning from Mars time will be John Spray, director of the Planetary and Space Science Centre at the University of New Brunswick and a member of Curiosity’s science team. He’s been taking shifts at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California since the landing, analyzing data sent back by Curiosity, and he’ll tell us the latest from the rover’s continuing mission.

Also joining us is Gordon Osinski of Western University. He travels far and wide in the field, using instruments developed for rovers to make geology and mining on Earth faster and easier. He’s training Canadian astronauts to do geology on other worlds. Mathieu Caron, mission controller at the Canadian Space Agency, will tell us about the next big space mission using the Dextre arm to extend the life of satellites in space. Plus, you’ll be inspired by the ingenuity of the Concordia University engineering students whose recent win of the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge means a mission in the spring.

Better science info = more informed citizens

This event is just one example of what the SMCC does to help journalists cover science when it’s in the news—not just physics, chemistry and biology, but health, social sciences and even some aspects of the humanities. This not-for-profit organization is modelled after science media centres in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. (The UK’s centre just celebrated 10 years!)

The philosophy behind the SMCC is that better science information in the media creates a more informed public. Science is everywhere, from the food we eat to the drugs we take, from cellphones to oil sands to how we entertain ourselves. A healthy democracy needs informed citizens, and most people get their science information from the media, which is where the SMCC comes in.

The SMCC’s first office opened in Ottawa in 2010, followed by a location in Montreal. In 2011, a Vancouver office followed, and this August, we found a Toronto home at MaRS. MaRS was one of our 131 founding charter members and has been a staunch supporter of the SMCC. Thanks to MaRS we look forward to a great evening and an ongoing collaboration in our new home. We hope you can join us.