The team from Concordia shows off their award-winning university-built 3-U cube sat. We heard from this group and many others at the 2012 CSS about the possibilities for exploring our planet and our solar system with small spacecraft not unlike the one pictured above.
A few weeks ago I was participating in the 2012 Canadian Space Summit in London, Ontario (full disclosure: I am on the conference organizing committee). We had a great week full of interesting talks. The highlight speakers were my PhD Advisor, Peter Smith who spoke at the banquet and the last man (and only geologist) to walk on the moon, Harrison Schmitt - the subject of a great deal of media and the host of a separate ticketed lecture.
But one emerging theme is a problem that is particularly acute for Canada - how do we fund space exploration? Even countries with large coffers dedicated to space, like the United States, or Inter-Governmental organizations such as ESA, often run into difficulties with getting their projects funded. As a result, you might be tempted to think that the only way a smaller country like Canada can get their flag into space is by partnering with others and contributing a small piece of a bigger mission.
While this has been a winning strategy, so far, I don't think we need to limit our ambitions here. And neither did a number of presenters at the CSS. We heard several talks on an emerging field: planetary nano-spacecraft or what I might call nano-exploration.