Space gets a little more Canadian

2 Jun

Here’s a great announcement. One that “confirms a great future for Canada in space for years to come,” in the words of Canadian Industry Minister James Moore.

I chatted with Jerry Agar on NewsTalk1010 about the news

Today it was announced that Canadian Astronaut Jeremy Hansen, along with fellow Canadian astronaut David St. Jacques, will have the opportunity to fly to and work on the ISS within the next decade as part of the Government of Canada extending funding to the ISS all the way to 2024. One of the flights will be before 2019 and the second prior to 2024. Who flies when will be determined in collaboration with ISS partners in the months ahead.

The Canadian funding will be in the neighbourhood of $350 million total, which is in line with current funding for the Canadian Space Agency’s ISS operations of about $83 million per year.

This money funds operations at the Canadian Space Agency, astronaut training, cost of launch, supplies and scientific equipment to operate the ISS, public outreach, and more.

Canada is also the third country to commit funding to continue ISS operations up to 2024 (following the USA and Russia) – extending it from the originally planned 2020. With the three largest ISS partners now committed, the next decade of ISS operations is likely secure. I also speculate that other nations will join the 2024 extension as there are currently 14 nations working together to operate the ISS, committed up to 2020.

It is also interesting to consider this: by 2017 NASA will again have its own ability to launch people into space, ending reliance on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft ever since the Space Shuttle stopped flying in 2011. This means that David and Jeremy could be the first Canadians to fly either the SpaceX Dragon V2 capsule or the Boeing CST-100 capsule, which are both currently under construction. It is also possible they’ll still launch on the Soyuz, but considering the projected budget advantages of the two new US-designed spacecraft, I’d imagine the Canadian Space Agency will go that route.

It’s also possible that Jeremy, as a CF-18 pilot prior to becoming an astronaut, could be assigned to a crew as the pilot for a future mission.

David was a medical doctor prior to becoming an astronaut – and medical experiments are a high priority for ISS research – so I expect he would be a very welcome addition to any crew as well.

Of course what or when their missions will be is speculative, but it is exciting to consider the possibilities.

The announcement today also included renewed funding for MDA to maintain the Canadarm2 and DEXTRE robots currently in operation on the ISS. (Read more about Canadian space robotics here.) Additionally, four new Canadian science experiments will be flying to the ISS this fall. And the Government of Canada will invest nearly $2 million to continue the work being done on Mars by the Canadian X-Ray Spectrometer on the Mars Science Laboratory, aka Curiosity Rover.

That’s all very exciting!

The work in space continues to inspire and improve life on Earth every day. This is a great forward-looking investment in science and the economy. I’ve written at length about the importance of investing in space before, here and here for example.

I’ve also had the opportunity to talk with Jeremy a few times, and David a couple times as well — each time they have been generous, open, and encouraging. I couldn’t be happier for their opportunity that awaits!

On one such occasion in May 2013 on the eve of Chris Hadfield’s return to Earth from the International Space Station, Ryan Marciniak, Paul Delaney, and I chatted with astronaut Jeremy Hansen on an episode of York Universe. He offered insight on what a visit to the ISS would be like, romanticize about one day maybe walking on the Moon or Mars, the rigours of training, and wise words for any young person contemplating their future – either as an astronaut or otherwise.

It’s also fascinating to hear Jeremy talk about the chance to “one day” be assigned to a flight — knowing that now today we’re taking one big step closer to that becoming a reality.

And for a little bit of a different look on Canada’s astronauts – namely having fun running around Toronto last year – here is the video from the Amazing Canadian Space Race, featuring Canadian Astronauts Jeremy Hansen and David St. Jacques in September 2014:

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