Gordon Osinski has spent the last twenty years scrutinizing the craters left by meteorites.
The analysis of planetary geology led this Ontario university professor to travel the world. His skills have also led him to now be part of the NASA team that will develop the scientific program to study the lunar surface, when humans will walk there for the first time in more than 50 years.
Professor Osinski is the only Canadian to be part of NASA’s recently announced “geology team” for the Artemis III mission — the one that plans to land and walk on the Moon. Experts will plan the science tasks that will be performed by astronauts who are expected to land near the Moon’s south pole as early as December 2025.
“It still seems pretty surreal, to be honest,” Osinski, a professor of earth sciences at Western University, admitted in a telephone interview. It’s still percolating in my head. »
NASA is planning several Artemis missions, which will bring humans back to the Moon and further explore the lunar surface with the goal of using those results for a possible mission to Mars.
The Artemis II mission – which includes Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen – will send a crew of four into space as early as November next year for a flyby maneuver of the far side of the Moon. This will be the first time that a human being has ventured this far from Earth.
Understanding planetary processes
The Artemis III mission will be the first crewed mission to land on the lunar south pole — and a first moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.
The team of geologists, including Professor Osinski, will plan the scientific tasks of the astronauts during their walks on the Moon. The astronauts will notably collect lunar samples, images and scientific measurements. The samples and data collected will help deepen understanding of fundamental planetary processes, NASA said.
“Artemis III will land in the south pole region, where there are many craters,” underlined the Ontario professor. NASA has yet to announce where the specific landing site will be, so at that time we will be doing a lot of work with all available satellite imagery to come up with a plan for the sites the astronauts will be visiting, I l hope. »
Mr. Osinski is also the scientific manager for the very first mission of the Canadian-made rover, the lunar vehicle which should roll on the surface of the South Pole in 2026.
Mr. Osinski, 47, grew up in the United Kingdom and moved to Canada in 1999. He began teaching at Western University in London in 2007. Although he was always interested in science in general, he describes his deep interest in space as a “late vocation”.
It was only after moving to Canada and working with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency that he developed a real fascination with space exploration, he says. “Since then, it’s just expanded and snowballed. »
“There are currently more Canadian scientists, engineers and other professionals involved in various missions, not only with NASA, but with various space agencies around the world, and in more Canadian space missions than in any other era,” underlines the geologist.