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I just received notification that my abstract has been accepted and that I have been invited to present a talk and answer questions at a plenary session at the 2013 Canadian Space Summit on November 14th and 15th. My talk will be titled "A Nanosat Payload for Space Weather Research" and it is based on the work I did developing the science payload for Carleton University's entry into the first Canadian Satellite Design Challenge, and the research I have continued to do on my own in actually building a proof-of-concept analogue of the detector (with any luck I will be light-tighting it tomorrow as I have finally figured out a way of getting the cables in and out without letting in any photons... harder than it sounds, and it sounds hard, heh). With any luck I will be able to present some initial data as part of the talk, but most of it will be on "space weather" and trying to predict it based on observing changes in the flux and directionality of galactic cosmic ray particles (mostly protons, but some helium nuclei) in orbit. Here is the abstract I submitted, more information, presumably, to follow:

Carleton University students entered the first Canadian Satellite Design Challenge with a proposal for a 3U Cubesat to monitor primary cosmic ray flux and anisotropy in low Earth orbit using a novel CsI(Tl)-based detector architecture. The data collected would be used to complement existing ground-based efforts studying secondary cosmic rays for clues on how to predict the arrival and severity of impending terrestrial geomagnetic storms caused by coronal mass ejections. The satellite design did not win the competition, but development work has continued on the scientific payload proposed by the author, and a low-cost ground-based analogue of the detector was completed in August 2013. Data taking for calibration and analysis has begun with an aim to validate the detector architecture using cosmic ray muons, and provide a realistic test bed for the optimization of the required low-power instrumentation electronics. A brief overview of the Carleton University design and the science behind it will be presented; followed by the rationale, design, and construction of the proof-of-concept detector and some preliminary operational findings.

Of course, this means more doom for me as I need to finish the talk in time for the summit, but again it's one of those thigns were it's impossible to say "no" (or at least really, really hard and possibly foolhardy to do so).

I think this version of the classic IBM "cosmic and microscopic" scales movie, with a new ambient electronica soundtrack is appropriate fare to round out this post (love the music, always one of my favourite movies):

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Through a series of fortuitous events (enabled by some serious hard work on my part several years ago that allowed my name to come up in conversation at the exact right time), I had dinner with astronaut Chris Hadfield this week (no, not one-on-one, it was part of a group dinner). I did meet him though and had a chance to speak what little Russian I remember from my 1st year class (two years ago) with him, and he seemed to appreciate my amusing attempts. As he said to me about the process of learning that language, "it's the first ten years that are the worst...", heh. I repeated Hadfield's comment to my (extremely) Russian co-worker at school today and he seemed pleased that the complexity of his native tongue is something to be treated with apprehension by non-native speakers. As I said, he is very Russian!

Photos or it didn't happen, eh? Fair enough...

Man, I gotta lose some weight, I guess I'll add that to my list of plans... for serious, I think it's finally time! I'm actually about to start a round of new goals, so it's timely to raise that as a priority with myself.

Well, off to get some sleep so I'll be ready for tomorrow's little adventures!
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Just received... it's 2:54 EST as I start to write this... (sorry, not 3:47 EST). I have made it past "Round 0" of the Mars One selection process and my profile and intro video are now public if you care to take a look (hey, actual real-world images of me, a rare thing indeed). The application process is now closed as well. I will publish some of the other stuff I wrote at a later date as I have to get up in 4 hours to get my younger daughter to the first day of school for the 2013-2014 year. The email read:

Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that your application has been approved by a Mars One moderator. This email confirms that you now have applied for a position in Mars Ones astronaut selection program.

Your application does not guarantee placement for the next round of the Mars One astronaut application process. The accepted applications will be assessed after the first of September 2013. If you have been selected to proceed to the following selection round, we will send you an email to notify you if you have been selected or not.

I should received a yay/nay answer on "Round 1" (which included the application process) by the end of September and, if I make it to "Round 2" will have 4 weeks to reply. Not exactly sure with what, but I know that I will have to provide "a medical statement of good health from [my] physician" (which should be fairly easy considering I hold a valid aviation medical certificate), and then there will be an interview with a regional selection committee (one source says there are 300 such committees). "Round 3" is where things get somewhat weird in what sounds like a cross between a reality TV show and popularity contest. The phrase that interests me most is: "The audience will select one winner per region and Mars One experts will select additional participants to continue to round four" (taken from the Mars One applications site FAQ) which sounds like not all the candidates are going to be chosen by that method. It is obvious to me that this round is the big attempt to raise hype and money for the project and it seems entirely reasonable that, essentially, social media is used as a tool for doing so. The final composition of the teams sound like it will be balanced between neo-celebrities and perhaps less flashy, but maybe more deeply capable, folk. "Round 4" will see groups of four assembled and tested and trained, again in what sounds like a reality TV series, and six of those groups will go on to be full-time astronaut trainees (and one of those groups will be on the first mission). There are obviously a lot of questions about the ability of the Mars One organization to pull such an ambitious project together, and doubly so in the time frame they are aiming for, but pretty much anything is possible if enough people want to see it done.

As for my chances, well, I do hope to at least make it into Round 2 and think I might have a chance at entering Round 3 (or I wouldn't have bothered applying), although after that there are so many (possibly random) variables I couldn't hazard a guess at whether or not I'd make it any further or even how I'd fare at that point. I have continuously done what I could to advance my goal of getting into space including applying for spots in various research projects including HI-SEAS, MARS-500, and a few years earlier than that, the Canadian Arrow project (an X-Prize candidate team) where I made it to the final selection round (one of 30 for 6 positions)... I obviously didn't cut it, but given the calibre of those that did, I feel nothing but amazement that I made it to that point as I was obviously a wildcard entry. Given that I will soon have fresh new degrees in theoretical physics and feminism, I think I make an intriguing candidate. If nothing else, this adventure, however it turns out, will make for some great stories ;).


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