The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) may not be a traditional space powerhouse, like NASA or Russian's RosCosmos. But that doesn't mean that the history of space exploration hasn't been built in part by Canadian innovation.
The most famous example of Canada's impact on space are the Canadarms that have been used on the space shuttles and International Space Station, or ISS. For decades, Canadian researchers, engineers, astronauts and inventions have left their mark on the worlds beyond our own. And as we've just learned, they're about to do it again.
Canada is going to the Moon! Sort of.
First international partner
Yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will be committing $2.05 billion (CDN) over 24 years toward its space program. More specifically, this will include $150 million over the next five years toward the Lunar Gateway. This makes them the first international partner in America's newest space venture.
And what exactly is Lunar Gateway?
Meet ISS, Mark 2
Lunar Gateway is basically the ISS, Moon edition. This is what it will look like.
Though smaller than the ISS, this ambitious project will serve a similar purpose. It will orbit the Moon to allow astronauts to more easily visit its surface and observe our next-door neighbour up close. Unlike the ISS, Lunar Gateway will not have occupants living there year-round. But starting in 2022, it will be there all the time—ready whenever NASA wants to send astronauts over for a mission.
So, what is Canada's role?
We don't know the specifics yet about what exactly Canada is going to be doing. It is a big project and will require everything from engineering and manufacturing work to actual astronauts that will make the journey. But it sounds like it will help create a lot of jobs in one of the most exciting fields imaginable. And there's another big bonus for Canada here, too.
Because while these missions to the Moon are important on their own, they're really just the appetizer to the main course.
"The moon is, in essence, a proving ground for deeper space exploration," said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine when he visited Ottawa in November. So the more that Canadians become a part of making Lunar Gateway successful, the more they will be involved in those missions to Mars that NASA has planned for around 2030.
We'll leave the last word for our current space ambassador, astronaut David Saint-Jacques.
Today’s announcement is a clear message to the next generation of Canadian explorers – future geologists, engineers, astronauts. Canada is inviting you to dream big. Thank you for giving me the chance to make history with you today from space. https://t.co/XgXdpidcxM
— David Saint-Jacques (@Astro_DavidS) February 28, 2019
We couldn't have said it better. Here's to our future in space!