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Western partners with Canadian Space Agency to launch Exploring Earth website

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques has been snapping photos of Earth since he boarded the International Space Station over seven weeks ago, and now those pictures are providing a platform for an interactive learning experience.

The interactive website uses photos taken from space by David Saint-Jacques to explain the Earth

Gordon Osinski is the director of the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at Western University. (Travis Dolynny/CBC)

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques has been snapping photos of Earth since he boarded the International Space Station (ISS) over seven weeks ago, and now those pictures are providing a platform for an interactive learning experience.

The Canadian Space Agency partnered with Western University's Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) to launch Exploring Earth, a web-based project that uses Saint-Jacques images as a springboard for scientific information compiled by local experts.

Astronauts, such as Chris Hadfield, have previously posted photos from the ISS, but researchers wanted to take it one step further.

"What we wanted to do was use the excitement of having astronauts, and in this case David Saint-Jacques, taking pictures from the International Space Station, but embed them into something that's longer lasting," said Dr. Gordon Osinski, director of CPSX.

"Then we'll use that to educate people on what they're actually seeing."

An interactive map of the Earth allows users to select a location to see photos and learn. The content includes categories such as landforms, natural hazards and human footprints.

The information compiled by experts from CPSX, along with Western's Faculty of Science, Social Science, and the Centre for Teaching and Learning, includes up-to-date facts and resources for teachers who teach Grades 4 to 10.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques appeared via a space-to-Earth video link for the launch of Exploring Earth Jan. 22, 2019. (Gordon Osinski)

The official launch of Exploring Earth was announced during a space-to-Earth connection with Saint-Jacques at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa Tuesday.

"One of the highlights was when there were 10 school children who got to ask David questions," said Osinski. "Just the look on their faces when he answered them and replied with their name — I hope a majority of them will be inspired."

Canada's first female astronaut Roberta Bondar, along with astronaut Jenni Sidey-Gibbons were also on hand for Tuesday's event.

Osinski says that if Exploring Earth inspires children to take geography, science and engineering, then it will be considered a job well done.

The online platform will be updated with two new photos every week.

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