Space conference leaves delegates starry-eyed

Queen’s Space Conference sets nation-wide goals for the future

Speakers from various parts of the industry presented to delegates over the weekend.
Speakers from various parts of the industry presented to delegates over the weekend.

At the Queen’s Space Conference, delegates discussed the space industry with the best and brightest astronauts, business leaders and CEOs.

Over the weekend, professionals in varying fields of space work gathered at the Four Points Sheraton H­otel to inspire a new generation of students aspiring to work in the space industry. Around 125 student delegates attended the conference, including about 50 external delegates from other universities.

In an interview with The Journal, Canadian astronaut and keynote speaker Robert Thirsk said with sparse job opportunities in the field, young professionals need to dream audaciously and work even harder.

“[They need to] know that astronaut jobs, space jobs, don’t fall out of the sky and into their lap,” he said.

Several of speakers and delegates also addressed the shortcomings of the Canadian space industry in comparison to other countries.

Many expressed worries that they’d have to leave the country and obtain alternate citizenships to pursue certain fields, including rocketry and propulsion.

Thirsk spoke extensively about his experiences in space flight. He said that despite the difficulties of working in the field, no sight ever filled him the same awe as seeing the earth from above.

"You look down from the vantage point of orbital flight, and you see this beautiful blue planet down below, and you see deserts,” he said.

“You know, deserts, they’re brown, but they’re a hundred shades of brown, they’re a hundred shades of orange, they’re a hundred shades of red.”

He called the experience “mind boggling”, and said the blue of the ocean as seen from space is now his most favourite colour.

“It’s just, to see the sun glint off the ocean, to look down and see your home country, some of your home cities from space – it just sends a chill down your spine.”

For a full Q+A with Dr. Thirsk, see our interview here.

Co-chairs Ben Luymes and Jas Singh Kundi, both Sci '16, spoke on the sense of wonder they felt towards space exploration and the industry surrounding it.

Luymes said the unknown posed a challenge to him, which led him to pursue Engineering Physics.

“I like not understanding things, trying to figure them out and realistically knowing that I’m not going to know the answer,” he said.

Luymes intends to pursue the field of micro and nano satellites, which he says is a larger trend in the Canadian space industry as satellites get smaller and smaller.

For Singh Kundi, the appeal is more sentimental. Running his hand along a pocket square, he said it was the last one his grandfather wore before he died.

His grandfather immigrated to Canada in 1986. At the time, his grandfather was poor and had a large family, Singh Kundi said.

“His greatest challenge was, ‘Let me pick up my family of nine children and my wife, and move to a brand new country where I don’t speak the language, and I will do whatever it takes to make it',” Singh Kundi said.

“What I realized is that, no matter what you’re going to do, take on the greatest challenges that you can.”

He plans on pursuing the propulsion and rocketry industry, which exists only on a small scale in Canada at the moment.

“[I want to] assemble a group of individuals that may have more experience than myself, and help lead that team to make Canada known for rocket propulsion.”

Previous co-chair Ted Donnelly, Sci '15, who returned for this year’s conference, said the event has grown drastically since he first got involved as a delegate.

The conference began in 2013 with approximately 30 to 40 delegates, he said. In the past two years, the delegate base has grown to roughly 50 to 70. This year, there was a significant jump to 125 delegates.

Moving forward, Singh Kundi and Luymes hope to expand the conference to include delegates from further across Canada, as many of the external delegates this year were from universities within Ontario.

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