By Peter Nowak - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 0 Comments
Every now and then someone comes along and criticizes space exploration – and inevitably makes a fool of themselves in the process. Add NOW Magazine to the list.
The Toronto alt-weekly trashed both Commander Chris Hadfield and space exploration in general as PR-seeking glory hounds and wastes of money, respectively, in a piece that ran this week.
Hadfield – the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station – of course returned to Earth on Monday evening, but not before posting a video of himself performing David Bowie’s Space Oddity… in space. That capped off a 146-day stint aboard the ISS that was punctuated by frequent tweets, photos and even an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit.
Hadfield’s return couldn’t happen “too soon,” according to the article, since he was wasting so much time conducting public relations for himself and space agencies in general, rather than actual scientific research:
By Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press - Friday, February 1, 2013 at 5:24 AM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – The recent announcement from Steve MacLean that he’s stepping down as head…
MONTREAL – The recent announcement from Steve MacLean that he’s stepping down as head of the Canadian Space Agency has industry-watchers speculating that it might be tied to government inaction in the space sector.
MacLean’s five-year-mandate was due to expire at the end of August, but he announced earlier this month that he would leave on Feb. 1.
The 58-year-old former astronaut and laser physicist is quitting to take up a position in a new venture tied to quantum physics in Waterloo, Ont.
MacLean has not granted any interviews to discuss his departure, but insiders suggest he is leaving because space policy has never advanced under the Harper government.
The government did not respond to an interview request. However, it said in an email that it plays a crucial role in the development of the Canadian space sector and remains committed to the Canadian Space Agency.
By Kate Lunau - Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 10:51 AM - 0 Comments
A tour of the elite training facility that turns mortals into astronauts
From the outside, Building 9 at the NASA Johnson Space Center, a sprawling complex on the outskirts of Houston, is nondescript. Inside, it’s like Willy Wonka’s factory, if Willy were a rocket scientist. The hangar-like facility is filled with robots, moon buggies and spaceship mock-ups. Robonaut, a humanoid robot with a golden head, sits next to Spidernaut, a robot prototype with eight arched legs. There’s an Orion capsule, and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. But what dominates the vast room is a full-size mock-up of the International Space Station (ISS), an Earth-orbiting spaceship built by 15 countries, including Canada.
One recent Monday morning, astronaut trainer Gwenn Sandoz waited there for Chris Hadfield, who will blast off from Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz in December, and soon after will become the first Canadian to take command of the ISS. Canada has invested heavily in the station, which has been inhabited by a rotating crew since 2000, but we only get to send so many astronauts there. For 20 years, Hadfield has worked tirelessly to prove himself in an astronaut corps dominated by the U.S. and Russia. Canada has paid its dues by contributing the robotics systems that built and maintain the ISS, finally earning a spot for one of its own at the controls of what Hadfield calls “the world’s spaceship.”
Sandoz knew her time with Hadfield was limited; this was his last week of training in Houston before the launch. At 10:15 a.m., right on time, he breezed in wearing a neatly tucked-in polo shirt—the unofficial uniform at Johnson—with the crew patch of Expedition 35, which portrays a moonlit view of Earth from the ISS as the sun peeks from behind it. Assigned to Expedition 34/35 in September 2010, he’s been training intensively in the U.S., Russia and elsewhere for the mission. It isn’t his first space flight, but it will be the longest he’s spent off the ground. Hadfield will be on the ISS until May, making him only the second Canadian (after Robert Thirsk) to do a long-duration mission.
By Blog of Lists - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 9:09 AM - 0 Comments
The Canadarm, which made its debut in 1981 and was retired last year is, without a doubt, one of the most famous robots ever in space. But while Canada’s space program has become synonymous with this giant grappler, researchers here have contributed to space science in all sorts of ways.
1. Greenhouses in space: At the University of Guelph, Mike Dixon and his team are working on “biological life support”—systems that will help sustain long-term human exploration to distant planets. “Canada currently leads the world in research and technology development in this field,” says Dixon, director of Guelph’s Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, where they’re finding ways to grow plants inside greenhouses with techniques that could one day allow us to grow crops on the moon or Mars.
2. Space vision system: Conditions in space can switch from extreme dark to brightness, making it hard for astronauts to gauge distance and speed with eyesight alone. The Canadian Space Vision System, which was first thought up about three decades ago, uses TV cameras as sensors to help astronauts see better, giving information about a specific target so they have an easier time locating it, and helping the Canadarm and Canadarm2 do their work.
3. Microgravity isolation mount: When astronauts attempt to do science experiments in space, they can find their results bungled by tiny disturbances in microgravity caused by on-board equipment like fans and thrusters, or even the movement of the astronauts themselves. To make it easier, Canadians developed the microgravity isolation mount, which uses magnetic levitation to protect fragile experiments from the spacecraft’s vibrations. It was first launched into space in 1996.
4. STEM antenna: Invented by Canadian inventor George J. Klein, the STEM antenna (short for “storable tubular extendible member”) looks like a roll of tightly coiled steel, like a large measuring tape. Once it’s in space, the roll can be unwound with a small motor into a strong tube to become an antenna. When Canada’s first satellite, Alouette I, was launched in 1962, it carried four STEM antennae; the design was also used on Mercury and Gemini spacecraft that brought the first Americans into space.
5. Landing gear on the Apollo lunar module: Using a landing system designed by Canada’s Héroux-Devtek, the Apollo lunar module was the first vehicle to take humans to another surface beyond Earth. Facing a tight timeline in the space race between the U.S. and Russia, Héroux-Devtek produced the landing gear systems used in all six moon landings; their hardware can still be found on the moon today.
Sources: Canadian Space Agency, Mike Dixon
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By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 4, 2011 at 12:14 PM - 28 Comments
Marc Garneau proposes a mission to Mars.
I’m talking about a robotic mission. Except for the launch part. We would need another nation’s involvement for the rocket part and we would share the information obtained in exchange. But wouldn’t it be great if an all-Canadian payload was launched to Mars to do some first-class science? The Americans are the only ones who’ve ever done it successfully. Canada could do that. It would be a great challenge because we’ll need more robotic missions before we send humans. Canada has the capability and this could be really inspiring … I can tell you, being a politician and being an ex-president of the Canadian Space Agency, I would take the CSA very seriously. And I would promote it because it’s a winner, it’s a money-maker. It’s an area where Canada is strong technically and it’s underexploited. And we can do great things. We can inspire.
By John Geddes - Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 4:37 PM - 5 Comments
Flaherty cuts tariffs and red tape
Without any splashy new spending or landmark tax cuts to announce, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty faced a tough challenge trying to convey an upbeat economic vision in his 2010 budget.
There was no getting around his budget’s somber central message of restraint. Still, Flaherty tried for a more positive tone by blending traditional Conservative aims, like freer trade and less red tape, with some themes familiar from the old Liberal government, like innovation and education.
Flaherty’s move to make Canada a tariff-free zone for manufacturers importing machinery and equipment was perhaps the closest he came to a bold stroke. “This will give Canada the status of being the first G20 country to become a tariff-free-zone for manufacturers,” he told the House in his budget speech.
His budget estimates that eliminating tariffs on the gear manufacturers import to improve production will save them $300 million a year in duties. In related moves, he promised to upgrade the international taxation system to cut red tape involved in the taxation of cross-border business.
Drawing inspiration from the way British Columbia and Ontario streamlined regulations, Flaherty announced the creation of a new Red Tape Reduction Commission, with a mandate to reduce the paper burden of complying with federal rules on small business in particular.
Less regulation and freer trade are both well within Flaherty’s comfort zone. They were also aims he could pursue without adding to spending or tinkering with taxes. The rest of his bid to project an upbeat economic vision relied on modest spending for projects that symbolize the economy’s future.
He announced $45 million over five years into establishing a post-doctoral fellowship program aimed at luring top emerging university researchers to Canada. The program is designed to pay up to 140 researchers $70,000 a year for two years.
Also in the world of high-level research, the budget earmarks $222 million over five years for British Columbia’s TRIUMF, the world’s largest cyclotron, a particle physics research facility. And $18 million is allocated over five years for the pre-construction design work on a new research station in the High Arctic—a project that straddles the government’s messages on innovation and Arctic sovereignty.
Among a cluster of other measures Flaherty packaged together as trying to promote economic growth through innovation:
— boosting the budgets of research granting councils by $32 million a year;
— injecting another $75 million into Genome Canada, on top of the $840 million Ottawa has already pumped into the not-for-profit corporation;
— giving the National Research Council $135 million to support 11 regional technology clusters across the country;
— investing $397 million over five years in the Canadian Space Agency’s work to develop radar remote-sensing satellites.
In wrapping up his budget speech, Flaherty made a bid to connect, at least rhetorically, his small-scale pro-innovation measures to his much bigger challenge—trying to persuade critics he has a real plan to rein in the deficit.
“We will balance the budget, but not for its own sake,” he said, before sketching a Tory vision of restrained government. “We must support, not replace, the talent and hard work of Canadians,” he said. “We must support, not suppress, their freedom and creativity.”