David Kendall was nine when Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, was launched. He was 13 when the first human went into space. These events had a lasting impression on him and would, eventually, shape his career path.
“The whole race to the moon during the ’60s was quite an amazing time,” says Kendall, MSc’72, PhD’79. “It was very formative in my thinking.”
After completing his undergraduate physics degree in his native United Kingdom, Kendall jumped at an opportunity to do his graduate work at the University of Calgary—a place he knew very little about. “When I arrived, I saw they had an excellent space and upper atmospheric group doing cutting-edge work.
I really lucked out that a spot was open. It just all fit together.” He came across the pond and hasn’t looked back.
These days, you’ll find Kendall in Saint-Hubert, Que. where he’s Director General of Space Science and Technology for the Canadian Space Agency. It’s his job to make sure that Canada’s space program continues to thrive by attracting bright minds and bright ideas. He works with members of industry, academia and government to build the next generation of space scientists and and the new innovative ideas behind future Canadian space missions.
“Canada has managed to have a world-class program because of our excellent people and ideas,” he says. Because the nation’s space budget is small—approximately $300 million compared to $6 billion at the European Space Agency or $18 billion at NASA—Canada competes by surpassing international colleagues in special areas where our scientists and engineers excel.
“In strategic areas, we have been very competitive and we need to ensure that remains,” says Kendall. “It’s my job to build on that for the next 10 to 15 years.”
Although Canada’s space program is relatively small, it has huge applications. Space technology is used every day by every citizen through the use of communications, navigation, remote sensing and much more.
“We need people who understand the complete chain as to how space delivers on the services that Canadians expect,” says Kendall. “As example, I can cite the issues in the Arctic—from navigating in ice-infested waters, to land-use management, to being able to securely communicate with communities in the North, to understanding climate change and ozone depletion. All of these areas are being studied by Canadians and providing solutions to policy-makers. We cannot rely on our partners to do this for us.”
Even with all his heady work, Kendall remains very down to earth. “What I love most is working with people, especially the young people at the universities—seeing their enthusiasm and drive. It really excites me to see the excellent work that’s being done across the country. I’m also blessed with an outstanding team. Going to work every day is an incredible pleasure.”