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New Horizons en direction d’Ultima Thule

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Si de petites lunes ou des anneaux de poussières avaient été détectés dans son orbite, le navigateur spatial québécois Frédéric Pelletier et ses collègues de la NASA auraient commandé à la sonde de faire un détour pour les éviter.

L’objectif principal de New Horizons, une sonde de la taille d’un camion lancé en 2006, était l’étude de la planète naine Pluton et de son système lunaire. La sonde l’a rejointe neuf ans plus tard après un voyage de 5 milliards de kilomètres.

Représentation artistique de la sonde New Horizons dans le voisinage de l'astéroöde Ultima Thule.Représentation artistique de la sonde New Horizons dans le voisinage de l’astéroïde Ultima Thule. Photo : NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

À la suite du succès de sa mission, la sonde a poursuivi sa route vers la ceinture de Kuiper, l’ultime frontière d’astéroïdes de notre système solaire.

Le nom officiel de l’astéroïde Ultima Thule est 2014 MU69. C’est un objet dit transneptunien d’un diamètre de 30 kilomètres. La sonde l’atteindra le 1er janvier prochain. Ultima Thule deviendra ainsi l’objet céleste le plus lointain jamais visité par une sonde de conception humaine, à quelque 6,5 milliards de kilomètres de la Terre.

L’astre Ultima Thulé a été détecté à l’aide du télescope Hubble en 2014. Lors de son survol, New Horizons prendra des photos de la surface glacée d’Ultima Thule et en profitera aussi pour recueillir d’autres données.

La ceinture de Kuiper

Cette région est située au-delà des planètes rocheuses comme la Terre et Mars et des géantes gazeuses comme Jupiter et Neptune. Elle contiendrait plus de 70 000 objets de plus de 100 km de diamètre.

Le Québécois Frédéric Pelletier est un habitué des missions spatiales inhabitées de la NASA. Il a également dirigé la sonde Cassini autour de Saturne et a participé à l’élaboration de la mission InSight vers Mars.

Cette étape de la mission de New Horizons représente un défi de taille pour M. Pelletier, qui doit contrôler la sonde qui file à 51 000 km/h.

Comme la plupart des objets de ce type retrouvés dans la ceinture de Kuiper, 2014 MU69 est probablement composé de poussière et de glace qui se sont formées à l’aube du système solaire, il y a plus de 4,5 milliards d’années.

Selon ce que nous connaissons de ce type d’objets, il devrait posséder une forme allongée ou lobulaire, un peu à l’image d’une pomme de terre ou d’une cacahuète.

Sa surface devrait être très sombre, ayant été bombardée par les rayons cosmiques et rayons X.

New Horizons devra pivoter pour pointer ses instruments vers l’objet, si bien que la sonde ne pourra garder l’antenne pointée vers la Terre lorsqu’elle recueillera des données.

Comme la sonde atteindra l’astre le 1er janvier, elle communiquera avec la Terre dans les heures suivantes. Les premières images devraient donc nous parvenir le 2 janvier. Il faut savoir que le signal radio prend plus de 6 heures pour parvenir à notre planète.

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Canadian tech diversity and inclusion in the spotlight

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Diversity and inclusion are hot-button issues, but for all the attention they get, there’s still work to be done in the tech sector, according to a recent Gartner blog.

Citing a range of challenges that include pay inequity, lack of diversity in corporate management, and difficulty recruiting diverse talent, the blog suggests three possible remedies for organizations trying to become more diverse and inclusive: having a long-term plan but focusing on one aspect that will make the most benefit, setting targets and making leadership accountable, and committing resources.

The call for such strategies finds support in a report from the Brookfield Institute revealing that Canada’s technology sector has a disappointing track record when it comes to inclusion and equity, with women “four times less likely to be employed in the sector than men, and earning on average $7,300 less than men in technology jobs.”

The findings are just as grim in a January 2020 report funded by Canada’s Future Skills Centre. According to this document, despite corporate commitments to diversity, “decades of initiatives designed to advance women in technology have scarcely had an effect: The proportion of women in engineering and computer science in Canada has changed little in 25 years.”

And women are not the only disadvantaged group, says the report. “The under-employment of skilled immigrants and under-representation of women and other groups in the ICT industry suggests that recruitment and retention policies and practices of the very firms complaining about this [skills] gap may be contributing to the problem.”

Until we do a better job of addressing inclusion and diversity, career opportunities will continue to be limited for women, internationally educated professionals, racialized minorities, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. In addition to being a very human issue, this is also one that perpetuates the ICT skills gap by failing to tap into a supply of well-qualified labour.

On the bright side, there are technology companies and organizations across Canada that are truly determined to create opportunities for those who are under-represented in the digital talent pool. There is also an opportunity to recognize their efforts during Channel Innovation 2021: Adapting to the New Customer Experience, a 2.5-hour, virtual event on April 28, 2021.

A showcase for independent software vendors (ISVs) and Canadian channel innovators, the Channel Innovation 2021 celebration will take place on CIA-TV, a unique ITWC platform that allows the audience to take in the show, download related content and videos, and network in live breakout rooms. There are six award categories, including the C4 Award for Diversity and Inclusion. Nominating is simple. Whether a self- or third-party nomination, there are only two main questions to answer and an opportunity to include a supporting document or image.

Winning entries will be announced during the celebration and profiled in the Channel Daily News Magazine and in Direction Informatique, ITWC’s French-language publication devoted to the Quebec marketplace. They will also receive a digital badge for use on their websites and on social media to help gain industry-wide recognition and end-user exposure.

The media attention and recognition are reason enough to vie for this honour, and we always need things to celebrate during a global pandemic, but the real value in awards for diversity and inclusion is in setting an example for others to follow. The news is full of the ways we are falling down when it comes to equity in the IT sector. Let’s take some time to highlight the success stories and encourage other tech innovators to step up.

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Leading Canadian tech entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar to give virtual keynote in Peterborough on March 9

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In celebration of International Women’s Day, one of Canada’s leading female tech entrepreneurs will be giving a virtual keynote for residents of Peterborough and the Kawarthas on Tuesday, March 9th at 7 p.m.

The Innovation Cluster is hosting Saadia Muzaffar as part of its ‘Electric City Talks’ series.

Muzaffar is a tech entrepreneur, author, and passionate advocate of responsible innovation, decent work for everyone, and prosperity of immigrant talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She is the founder of TechGirls Canada, a hub for Canadian women in STEM, and co-founder of Tech Reset Canada, a group of business people, technologists, and other residents advocating for innovation that is focused on the public good.

In 2017, Muzaffar was featured in Canada 150 Women, a book about 150 of the most influential and groundbreaking women in Canada. Her work has been featured in CNNMoney, BBC World, Fortune Magazine, The Globe and Mail, VICE, CBC, TVO, and Chatelaine.

Muzaffar’s March 9th talk, entitled ‘Redefining Term Sheets: Success, Solidarity, & The Future We Want’, will inspire women to achieve success in all areas of life, including in business by providing strategies for obtaining funding.

“It is impossible to explain how women only get 2.2 per cent of funding for their ventures while we constitute a majority of the population, without acknowledging long-standing structural and systemic bias,” Muzaffar says, describing her talk. “Women know these odds in our bones because we feel them in too many boardrooms, banks, media advertisements, and venture competitions — yet women are the fastest-growing demographic in new businesses.”

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ARK’s Cathie Wood joins board of Canadian tech firm mimik

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ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood is joining the board of Canadian technology company mimik.

Vancouver-based mimik is an edge computing company that effectively turns devices like phones into private cloud servers. It has already teamed up with Amazon Web Services and IBM on edge computing – two of the bigger players in the space.

The AWS partnership gives software developers access to mimik’s cloud platform. Together, edge devices including smart phones, tablets, and Internet of Things (IoT) products can act as extensions of the AWS cloud. With the IBM partnership, mimik’s technology will be included in automation and digital transformation across manufacturing, retail, IoT and healthcare.

All of mimik’s business lines fit in with Wood’s broad ‘next generation internet’ thesis, one of her big five investment themes. The company itself is private and Wood is not an investor. 

However, as Citywire noted in January, Wood has hinted in interviews that ARK is exploring the launch of a private markets strategy. 

Wood joins a relatively high profile board at mimik. Other members include  Allen Salmasi, a pioneer in mobile technology who was previously with Qualcomm, and Ori Sasson, managing director of Primera Capital, who was an investor in VMWare and other technology companies.

‘I’ve always believed in backing founders who are at the forefront of innovation,’ Wood said in a statement on her decision to join mimik. ‘At mimik, [they] have built a foundation for the next generation of cloud computing.’ 

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