Hot Topics | Natalie Panek on The Future & Trends in the Space World
December 10, 2015
We are closing out 2015 by taking a look at the year ahead. Throughout December we will be featuring guest posts from some of our expert speakers on the Future & Trends relevant to their particular area of expertise.
Today’s guest post comes from Rocket Scientist & Advocate for Women in Technology Natalie Panek. As a Mission Systems Engineer at MDA’s Robotics and Automation division, Natalie works on the next generation of Canadian space robotics and space exploration programs.
‘Space exploration is just the latest version of an ancient pattern: using our most advanced technology to push back the edges of our experience and imagination.’
— Col. Chris Hadfield
As a child of the Albertan Rockies, I grew up spending as much time as possible outdoors; hiking, camping, backpacking. Simply exploring my own backyard. Gazing at the stars was a common past time, hoping one day, I too, could see Earth from a different perspective and explore beyond our home.
The desire to know what is out there excites me just as much today as it did when I was young. That’s because there are some really exciting projects unfolding in the space world right now.
In the last year or so alone, Rosetta has landed on an asteroid and New Horizons is sending back the highest resolution images of Pluto ever seen. And there are many more incredibly cool missions launching in the next few years including the James Webb Space Telescope, which is the most powerful telescope ever built and will study the formation of planets. OSIRIS-Rex is an asteroid sample return mission launching in 2016. The ExoMars rover, launching in 2018, will study for life on Mars (a project that I am directly involved with). Each of these programs optimizes a combination of heritage and state-of-the-art technologies in search of the unknown. Really, in search of one of the biggest unknowns of all: is anyone else out there?
It is so humbling to consider just how little we know, but also to be in a position of constant learning. The learning part of space, science, robotics, or any other tech is key. Particularly recognizing the power and value of international collaboration and investing in young leaders with vision, who can and will change the face of space and make future exploration not only possible but sustainable.
Of course a discussion of what is trending in space would not be complete without mentioning the private space sector propelled by powerhouses like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos; all trying to break the cost barrier to space and improve access to orbit. Musk and Bezos for example, are directly racing to enable reusable rockets via their companies SpaceX and Blue Origin.
The accomplishments of these risk takers are challenging old thinking and changing the game; which really is the underpinning of entrepreneurship. And Canada is undoubtedly a powerful entrepreneurial hub, ripe with ambition, drive, and invention that is propelling technology and innovation across our country. So I can’t help but wonder when we will step onto the world’s private space stage…