On Wednesday, the Canadian government unveiled it's long-awaited national space strategy, focusing on artificial intelligence, deep-space robotic systems, Earth-observation capabilities, and a search for new ventures with the European Space Agency.
Along with this forward-thinking strategy, Science Minister Navdeep Bains announced the start of a "comprehensive and educational outreach program" that will focus on a "junior astronaut campaign" that will have online activities and a contest to get an astronaut to visit a school.
The 22-page Space Strategy was announced from the Telus World of Science in Edmonton, in front of children from Grades 1 to 6. The announcement follows on the heels of last week's announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Canada will participate in the NASA-led Lunar Gateway program, a space station that will orbit the moon.
The federal government listened to the strong criticism by people in the space industry who called for a more robust and focused space program. With so many countries entering into space ventures, Canada has seemingly been left out. The federal government also promises to cut the regulatory red-tape the space industry says has hindered projects going forward.
And the initiative goes along with Canada’s space agency calling on companies to present their ideas for everything from moon-rover power systems to innovative mineral prospecting technique in September 2018.
"We are going to seize this opportunity that we have now and we're going to do it in Canadian style," said astronaut Jeremy Hansen, who is slated to become the next Canadian in space, after David Saint-Jacques who is currently on the International Space Station. "We're going to pursue excellence and bring a lot of benefits back to Canadians."
Canada's place in the aerospace community
Even though some in the space industry criticize Canada for not doing more and being involved in space endeavors, they overlook the fact that Canada is highly regarded in the industry. Canada was the third country, behind the U.S. and Russia, to launch a satellite into space, - the Alouette 1 in 1962.
Canada was involved in the Apollo Missions. The Lunar landing legs for the missions were made by Heroux-Devtek in Quebec, The Canadarm built for the International Space Station was a signature Canadian achievement in space technology that helped the country get a foothold in the U.S. shuttle program and space station.
There are Canadian-made instruments on Mars, including on the Curiosity rover which continues to roam the Red Planet and OSIRIS-REx, a sample-return mission around the asteroid Bennu.
The one thing everyone agrees on is that the Canadian government has not been disposed to spending a lot on the space or science sector. Last year, reports the Globe and Mail, after heeding a 2017 report from the Space Advisory Board that showed funding had been stuck in low gear for a number of years, the budget turned out to be a win for science and technology - but space was left out in the cold.
“The current level of small and uncertain funding means that Canadian space scientists can’t develop new technologies or engage in international missions in an effective way,” said Jeremy Heyl, an astrophysicist at the University of British Columbia who co-authored the white paper in 2017.
Some of the proposals in the 2017 report are now being included in Canada's new Space Strategy, according to CTV News Canada. They include:
1. To reverse the decline in the country's space capability before it's too late.
2. To develop "a new space strategy and follow-on space plan that provides the policies, programs and funding essential for the revitalization of Canada's space capacity."
3. To establish a "comprehensive and educational outreach program" for Canadians of all ages.
4. To pursue a "balanced space program" that includes all areas of Canadian expertise
This article originally appeared in Digital Journal