Monday, May 16, 2011

Wikileaks, Defense, Awards, Astronauts, Announcements, Museums and Politics

Here are six updates on stories related to Mars, the military, Canada's space agency, Canada's space society and Canadian astronauts either opening museums or contemplating liberal leadership runs:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
  • According to the May 12th, 2011 BBC News article "Wikileaks cables show race to carve  up Arctic," secret US embassy cables released by Wikileaks "show nations are racing to "carve up" Arctic resources, oil, gas and even rubies, as the ice retreats." According to the article, the cables were released as foreign ministers from the eight Arctic Council member states (Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland) met last week. This seems more than normally bad for Canada given that the May 12th, 20111 CBC News article "US dismisses Harper's Arctic talk," states that the Wikileaks cables also indicated that the US government doesn't take Arctic sovereignty pronouncements by the Stephen Harper government seriously. As outlined in my four part series "Canada's Military Space Policy" the Harper government has substantially revised Canadian defense policy under the 2008 Canada First Defence Strategy (CFDS) to focus more on Arctic sovereignty through the development of new satellite situational awareness capabilities and has also publicly stated that it intends to increase Department of National Defense (DND) funding from $18 billion in 2007-2008 to over $30 billion by 2027-2028 for a total of $490 billion over the 20 year period covered by the strategy, but has not yet moved forward with funding. As well, an announced 2011 update of the existing Canadian military space policy (as discussed in my November 22nd, 2010 post "Media Notes from the 2010 Canadian Space Summit") has also not yet occurred as announced and is unlikely to do so soon. 
Award winner Henry Buijs.
    CSS President Kevin Shortt.
    • The Canadian Space Society (CSS) has issued it's call for papers for the 2011 Canadian Space Summit, which will be held in Calgary, Alberta from November 16th - 18th, according to this announcement on the CSS website. The theme of the conference is "Big Data from Space and Earth" which seems appropriate since the phrase "big data" refers to data-sets that grow so large that they become awkward to work with. This is essentially what is happening with our current focus on geomatics, Earth imaging and space situational awareness, which requires large amounts of data collected from ground and space based instrumentation in order to develop a useful understanding of any environment. For ideas on how these items relate to current space activities, it's worthwhile checking out my March 2nd, 2011 article in titled "Growth in Space Utilization to Benefit Canadians."
    Mars Society President Robert Zubrin.
    • It's interesting to note that two of the nine announced teams for the 2011 University Rover Challenge, organized by the US based Mars Society, are Canadian based. The University of Waterloo Mars Rover Team and the York University Rover Team will be joining three teams from Poland and four American teams to compete for "cash prizes, a trip to present at the annual International Mars Society Convention, and a year’s worth of bragging rights" at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah from June 2nd - 4th. Even more interesting is the May 14th, 2011 Wall Street Journal article by Mars Society President Robert Zubrin which outlines a plan to go to Mars before the end of the decade by using hardware expected to be fielded by rocket manufacturer Space Exploration Technologies (Space-X) within the next few years. Total cost is "half the mission cost currently required to launch a shuttle flight." If we believe Zubrin and Space-X, the cost of space exploration is finally starting to go down.
    CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen.
    • Speaking of which, as the curtain on US space shuttle program also slowly goes down, it's worth noting that most of our past, present and potential future CSA astronauts have stepped up their efforts to remind Canadians that "there is still a bright future for them among the stars," at least according to the May 12th, 2011 Vancouver Sun story "Next generation of Canada's astronauts still see future in the stars." The article quotes new CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen as being "adamant" that the end of the Space Shuttle program doesn't mean Canadian astronauts should temper their ambitions of exploring space. He's right of course, but the question on everyone lips isn't whether there will be any more Canadian astronauts, especially since Vision 2000 executive VP Stephanie Anevich announced at the last Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) meeting that she was one of thirteen Canadian's who have already signed up for suborbital astronaut trips aboard the Virgin Galactic (VG) Space Ship Two. The real  question is whether there will be any more CSA government supported astronauts after Chris Hadfield returns from his expected long duration stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2012-2013.The CSA has so far announced no trips after Hadfield's and seems unlikely to do so soon.
      CSA astronauts Daffyd Williams, Chris Hadfield, Bjarni Tryggvason, David Saint-Jacques, Julie Payette, Jeremy Hansen, Robert Thirsk, and Steve Maclean take part in the opening of The Living in Space exhibit at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.
        Liberal MP Marc Garneau on CTV.
      • And finally, as one of the few current or ex-CSA astronauts not retired or opening new museum exhibits these days, federal MP Marc Garneau is focused on the new position of interim Liberal leadership, which he self-announced for last week in an effort to replace retired leader Michael Ignatieff and help rebuild his devastated party (which went from 77 to 34 seats held in the latest federal election). According to the May 13th, 2011 article "Marc Garneau makes his case for becoming interim Liberal leader" Garneau feels that his previous experiences as an astronaut, head of the CSA for four years and as a liberal MP proves that he can run a "tight, disciplined team that can deliver on projects." Traditionally, the job of an interim leader is to build consensus, write down the party debts from the last election and generally rebuild the party infrastructure in anticipation of the next permanent leader.

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