PROFile: My work is my hobby

Dr. Ed Cloutis, professor, Department of Geography, U of W

(Supplied photo)

Dr. Ed Cloutis became involved in planetary exploration while obtaining his master’s degree in the United States. Originally from the Toronto area, he continued that interest upon his return to Canada. He spends his spare time on his work.

“My hobby kind of leads me into my work,” Cloutis says.

Cloutis’ 30-year involvement with planetary remote sensing led to him being asked to assist with NASA’s Mars missions.

“I’ve been involved with exploring Mars for a long time, so when NASA started thinking about developing the (Perseverance) rover, I was asked by colleagues in the US to join the team putting together plans,” he says.

Those plans refer to decisions about the kind of science instruments to add to the Perseverance rover. In fact, Cloutis’ connection to the instruments chosen for the rover naturally led to his involvement with the mission.

At the University of Winnipeg, Cloutis has five students involved in the rover’s day-to-day operations. “They have defined roles in the mission in terms of helping to decide where the rover should go and what rocks it should look at,” Cloutis says. “The students are apparently enjoying the cool experience, and I tend to believe them.”

Asked about NASA’s future plans, Cloutis speculates, “If there’s money and interest, then we follow up with human missions. It’s great we’re exploring Mars with robots, but for me it would be so cool to send astronauts to the surface of Mars and see it through human eyes.”

What is the best thing about your work?

“We’re looking to discover new things. We’re looking to answer the question of whether life evolved on other planets. The other thing is I’m involved with the mission and the discovery process.”

What do you like about Winnipeg?

“The vibe at the university.”

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

“The ability to fly like a bird.”

Published in Volume 76, Number 16 of The Uniter (February 3, 2022)

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