Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

June 13, 2005

U of G Prof to Head National Committee on Space Exploration

A University of Guelph professor renowned for his research on how to sustain life in orbit has been named chair of the Canadian Space Agency's Space Exploration Advisory Committee.

Mike Dixon, chair of U of G's Department of Environmental Biology, will assume the three-year post immediately. “The potential for more exceptional Canadian contributions to the exploration of space is greater than ever and I am very excited to participate in this role with our national agency,” he said.

David Kendall, director general of the CSA's space science program, said officials from the space science branch and the planetary exploration program are pleased by Dixon's appointment. “Professor Dixon is extremely well positioned to lead this committee by virtue of his excellent scientific reputation, his extensive experience in working with the Canadian space exploration community, and his efficiency and effectiveness at developing ideas and building consensus,” Kendall said.

The CSA's Space Science Branch is supported by six advisory committees. The committee Dixon chairs is the primary forum for advising the CSA's planetary exploration program on future directions. “With the current international interest in this field, especially with respect to the ambitious plans to return to the moon and explore Mars with an increasingly sophisticated suite of robotic instruments, how Canada will be placed in this exciting venture is of utmost importance,” Kendall said.

Dixon is the director of U of G's Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility. The most sophisticated of its kind in the world in the field of advanced life support, it contains elaborate hypobaric (reduced atmospheric pressure) chambers that will help to develop the engineering criteria for a “greenhouse” on Mars.

Gaining a better understanding of how pressure affects plants is the next key environmental issue for scientists in their bid to send humans on extended space missions, Dixon said. “During long-term missions such as the construction of a lunar or Mars observatory, the needs of the crew can be met only by developing self-sustaining, renewable life-support systems based on plants and micro-organisms.”

In 2001, Dixon was awarded a fellowship by the National Research Council and NASA and worked at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120,Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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