TORONTO — Future space travel beyond Earth — to Mars and beyond — will be one of the hot topics at a five-day international space development conference in Toronto this week.

It’s the annual conference of the National Space Society which brings together engineers, scientists, educators, and business representatives from the civilian, military, commercial and other space sectors.

Organizer Marc Boucher says the conference will hear from experts who will discuss different types of propulsion that could be used for future travel to the Red Planet.

One proposal, which involves a plasma rocket system, could cut the travel time from nine to two months.

Boucher says he also expects Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, one of the first humans on the moon, to shed light on any future manned trips to Mars when the former U.S. astronaut addresses the confab on Friday.

“He’ll be talking about the feasibility of a Mars mission, he’ll look at the costs and a realistic timetable,” Boucher said in a recent interview.

Aldrin and the late Neil Armstrong were the first Americans to set foot on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission.

“This conference is unlike any other space conference that’s out there,” Boucher said. “It runs the full gamut from pure business to a whole section on education, to policy and to enthusiasts who are interested in space settlement, whether it be on Mars or elsewhere.”

He said the gathering will also learn about the latest advances in rocket launch systems currently being developed by NASA and commercial companies like SpaceX, which has already flown supplies to the International Space Station.

Space-based solar power will also be discussed. That’s the process of collecting energy from sunlight on a satellite and transmitting it to Earth.

Boucher, the executive director of the Canadian Space Commerce Association, said the Toronto conference will also showcase new Canadian space companies like Canadensys Aerospace and UrtheCast Corp. to the rest of the world.

“I see a lot of Canadian companies innovating in technology and Earth observation,” he said. “There’s a lot of growth potential in those areas and with the right support I think they can be leaders on the global scale.”

Boucher noted that in the last two years, the small satellite market has grown and it’s an area where Canada has expertise.

“But, unless it gets some support from the government, it could be a market that we wind up losing out on,” he added.

Marc Garneau, an ex-astronaut and former head of the Canadian Space Agency, will discuss the future of the Canadian space industry when he addresses the convention Friday morning.

Boucher said more than 1,700 delegates from around the world have signed up to attend the conference, which runs from May 20 through 24.

Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press