The Space Exploration Advisory Committee (SEAC) advises the Canadian Space
Agency (CSA) Space Science Program on matters pertaining to space
exploration in Canada. A SEAC subcommittee has been formed to study the
feasibility of establishing a Canadian Astromaterials Facility (CAF). The
subcommittee has identified a rationale, outlined the preferred nature of a
CAF, and envisioned important links and upgrades to existing Canadian
laboratories to complement a CAF. SEAC now needs response from the space
exploration community in Canada to this initiative. If the community is
supportive, the subcommittee also seeks to identify individuals and
institutions that are interested in implementing such a facility.

The rationale for the creation of a CAF is that several sample-return
missions (SRM’s) are planned to return samples from extraterrestrial
sources, within this decade and the next. Only a very small amount of
material will be returned. There will be samples of comet nuclei (STARDUST),
interplanetary and solar dust particles (IDP’s, GENESIS), asteroids (Hera,
MUSES-C), samples of dust and rock from Mars (MSR), and possibly more lunar
samples. Upgrades to existing facilities, and planning for new ones, are
proceeding now in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and elsewhere. These facilities
are “mission-critical” in countries planning the SRM’s. To participate in
research on any samples, even from Canadian space missions, Canadian
scientists will have to show that they are able to receive, handle, store,
and analyze these materials in laboratories meeting specific requirements,
and having proven capabilities. Therefore SEAC has identified the need to
improve Canadian scientific and technical capacity to prepare for these

A CAF would be a unique establishment for all scientists working in the
field of space exploration, even prior to SRM’s. All samples requiring
special care (i.e. some terrestrial analogue and meteorite samples, space
exposed hardware) could benefit from its curation, storage, handling and
analytical capabilities. A primary facility with a superior analytical
capability would enable a network of Canadians from academia, industry, and
government to use it to advance space exploration sciences worldwide. By
having this primary facility close to one or more established institutions,
to people already doing related research, the need to draw human resources
away from these institutions would be minimized and the operating costs
would be reduced.

In addition to a primary facility, nation-wide improvements to research
infrastructure are needed: a network of existing labs, upgraded to
appropriately controlled environments, to handle routine analyses to
complement the superior capability of the CAF. Linking together Canadian
expertise in the CAF and through laboratory networks would help scientists
gain access to samples. Strong science teams would be formed; analytical
capabilities would be upgraded; and collaboration among Canada’s top
scientists would lead to many exciting discoveries that prove our abilities.

The Facilities Subcommittee is convinced that the time and effort required
for this project is worthwhile; this is not, however, something we are able
to do on our own. We are looking for people willing to dedicate time to help
develop a complete design, which can then be used in an effort to secure
funding, and to identify a lead or host institution for the primary
facility. There is an opportunity here for scientists interested in
astromaterials research to help determine what specific capabilities should
be improved nationally. I encourage people to take advantage of this and to
become involved with the planning for the facility and other laboratory
upgrades. This concept is still in the initial development stages; all input
will be of considerable value.

A webpage has been created to provide some background information and
outline possible scenarios ( Please e-mail thoughts, ideas,
and suggestions about this initiative to Keegan Boyd at If you would like to become involved with the
planning process, please contact Keegan or me to discuss your interest and


Hojatollah Vali

Chair, SEAC Facilities Subcommittee


Hojatollah Vali

Electron Microscopy Centre

McGill University

3640 University Street

Montreal, Quebec H3A 2B2

Tel: (514) 398-3025

Fax: (514) 398-5047


Keegan Boyd

Space Science Program

Canadian Space Agency

P.O. Box 7275

Ottawa, Ontario K1L 8E3

Tel: (613) 232-7738

Fax: (613) 991-9582