Training in Geology


Mars, the Moon and asteroids are all possible future destinations for human space exploration missions. Geology will be an important part of the fieldwork carried out on these celestial bodies.

For example, during the Apollo missions, one of the chief duties of the astronauts was to study the geology of the Moon. Lunar samples were collected and brought back to Earth.

Similarly, astronauts must be able to identify pertinent geological structures during their future missions. Their discoveries could contribute to a better understanding of the history of our own planet and that of the solar system.

As part of their astronaut training, David Saint-Jacques and Jeremy Hansen participated in geology field expeditions to the Canadian Arctic.

On most of their geology field expeditions, David and Jeremy served on a research team from Western University's Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) led by Gordon Osinski.

Kaskawulsh Glacier, Yukon

View the photo album of Kaskawulsh Glacier

Photo of Kaskawulsh glacier

The Kaskawulsh Glacier is a vast, temperate valley glacier in the St. Elias Mountains, Yukon. It covers more than 25,000 square kilometres. (Credit: Laboratory for Cryospheric Research, University of Ottawa)

  • Canadian astronaut: David Saint-Jacques
  • Duration: July 25 to August 2, 2015
  • Place: St. Elias Mountains, Yukon


  • Learn methods and techniques for conducting geological fieldwork that can be applied to future space missions, for example to Mars or other planets.
  • Help researchers develop better predictive models used to make projections of glacier response to climate change.
  • Act as expedition medical officer.
  • Enhance his expedition-related skills.

During this two-week expedition, David assisted the Simon Fraser University Glaciology Group, led by researcher Gwenn Flowers, in the study of the interaction of glaciers and freshwater bodies.

Ice is present elsewhere in the universe. It is now known that the planet Mars has polar ice caps and that other planets in the solar system are orbited by moons with frozen water.

Therefore, there is a link between terrestrial and planetary exploration!

Victoria Island, Northwest Territories

View the photo album of Victoria Island, Northwest Territories

  • Canadian astronaut: Jeremy Hansen
  • Duration: July 6 to 17, 2015
  • Place: Canadian Arctic Archipelago
Jeremy Hansen on a geological expedition on Victoria Island

"12 hours and 50 km later, we are back from exploring the most remote part of Tunnunik." (Credit: Gordon Osinski/Twitter)

Devon Island

Devon Island is located in Nunavut, in Canada's High Arctic (Credit: Gordon Osinski)


  • Confirm the origin of the crater
  • Conduct geological reconnaissance studies
  • Participate in studying the geology of the island and the impact rocks
  • Get an introduction to instruments used on planetary exploration missions

Under the Canadian Space Agency's Science and Operational Applications Research (SOAR) program, the team developed new tools and techniques for using RADARSAT-2 images to:

  • improve geological mapping
  • promote land use management
  • assist resource exploration in the Canadian Arctic

Clearwater Lake, Quebec (now called Wiyâshâkimî Lake)

View the photo album of Clearwater Lake, Quebec (now called Wiyâshâkimî Lake)

David Saint-Jacques Geology Training in Northern Quebec

"Field geologist or mountain climber? Both!" (Credit: Gordon Osinski / Twitter)

Clearwater Lake, Northern Quebec

Clearwater Lake, Northern Quebec. (Credit: Gordon Osinski)

  • Canadian astronaut: David Saint-Jacques
  • Duration: August 18 to September 3, 2014
  • Place: Northern Quebec


  • Study the processes related to the formation of impact craters
  • Learn methods and techniques for conducting geological fieldwork that can be applied to future space missions, for example to the Moon or an asteroid

David and the research team studied West Clearwater Lake, since the geological structure of East Clearwater Lake is submerged. These two annular lakes were formed by meteorite impacts in the distant past.

Devon Island, Nunavut

View the photo album on Flickr called Devon Island, Nunavut

Jeremy Hansen Geology Training in the High Arctic

"The view from my office is fantastic!" (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

  • Canadian astronaut: Jeremy Hansen
  • Duration: July 16 to 25, 2013
  • Place: High Arctic


  • Accompany the research team studying impact cratering processes.
  • Study the Haughton crater.
  • Learn methods and techniques for conducting geological fieldwork that could be applied to future space missions, for example to the Moon or an asteroid.

Jeremy Hansen sets out for geology field training on Devon Island

Astronaut Jeremy Hansen explains why astronauts undergo geology field training in remote regions and describes his expedition to Devon Island. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

On Earth, evidence of the existence of impact craters is continually being erased by plate tectonics, volcanism and erosion.

Nevertheless, about 180 impact craters have been documented to date, 30 of them in Canada.

This extremely remote and uninhabited island in Baffin Bay, Nunavut, features one of the best exposed and preserved impact craters on the planet.

The island's isolation presents many challenges: the team had to be flown to the site and had to manage with very limitedsupplies and support.

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