Thursday, May 16, 2019

No Canadarms Needed Under Current US Plans to Return to the Moon by 2024 Says NASA's Gerstenmaier

          By Chuck Black

Short weeks after noting in the May 1st, 2019 post "The Canadian Space Agency has Begun Issuing Millions of Dollars in New Canadarm Contracts for the US Lunar Gateway" that, "if the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) really wanted to build a new "3rd generation Canadarm" for the NASA led US Lunar Gateway, then it might want to wait until someone figures out if and/or when the US wants one," someone has figured out that NASA doesn't really want one.

One of the most famous catchphrases of the 50s was from the TV show, The Life of Riley, which ran from 1953 to 1958. The show featured William Bendix as kind-hearted doofus Chester A. Riley, a wing riveter at the Cunningham Aircraft plant in California. When Riley's well-intentioned blunders blew up in his face, he'd turn to the camera and exclaim,  "What a revoltin' development this is!" Kinda reminds you of Canada. Graphic c/o Imgflip.

At least not for today and not until an alternative plan to plant American astronaut boots on the Moon by 2024 is completed.

The information, as outlined in the May 14th, 2019 SpaceQ post, "Accelerated NASA Moon Landing Plan Doesn’t Need Canadian Robotic System," derived from a series of e-mails from Bill Gerstenmaier, the NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations. The emails occurred after a May 13th, 2019 NASA teleconference announcing a preliminary budget for the Moon 2024 initiative and naming the project "Artemis."

According to the post, Gerstenmaier said that “at this point in our planning the robotic arm is not required for the 2024 landing.” He also said “we would like the arm as soon as available. The CSA arm concept is very creative and (could) be used inside (of the station) as well.”

This publication has never been a fan of SpaceQ, finding the writing and editorial stance tilted way too far away from journalism in favor of promoting legacy CSA subcontractors, but this particular article is timely and throws most of Canada's space community into a tailspin.

As outlined in the February 28th, 2019 post, "Canada Becomes the First Nation to Formally Commit to the NASA Lunar Gateway Plan," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the initial announcement that Canada would be contributing to the US Lunar Gateway in late February, just before the 2019 Federal budget was released and the US decided to change its plan.

Unlike the current Canadian space program, which is locked in concrete until after the next Federal election in October 2019. the NASA's preliminary budget is still expected to be subjected to months of political infighting before being finalized.

As outlined in the May 14th, 2019 post, "Trump Proposes Extra $1.6Bln for NASA's 2024 Return to Moon," the proposed budgetgives NASA an additional $1.6Bln US ($2.2Bln CDN) in fiscal year 2020, on top of the $21Bln US ($28Bln CDN) already allocated to the space agency."

The plan calls for American astronauts to return to the moon using American made landers and hardware.

But NASA won't get the money "until Congress, which has the power of the purse, officially signs off." No one really knows when that will happen or what will happen with next years budget.

Most observers expect that far more funding will be required in future years. The long-term political prognosis for the proposal is, so far at least, far from favorable. 

So while its good that NASA's Mr. Gerstenmaier is still interested in getting free Canadarms which can be traded for future astronaut slots, informed Canadians should note that the US budget and its NASA component are targeted specifically at programs designed to further US interests.

Not Canadian interests. 

Back in March, almost as soon as Canada committed funding for the US Lunar Gateway, the US government, as outlined in the March 28th, 2019 post, "If NASA is Putting US Boots on the Moon by 2024, Who Will Pay for the Lunar Gateway and Space Launch System?," quietly began the process of throwing Canada's proposed contribution under the bus.

In retrospect, this country and the ruling Justin Trudeau Liberal government was foolish to bet so much of its space future on a US space program focused almost exclusively on US domestic and international concerns. 

Let's see about cleaning up our mistake. Canada's space activities should address Canadian concerns, grow Canada's space industry and solve Canadian problems on Canadian timetables.

We don't need to serve as an adjunct to someone else's space program.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 


  1. Completely agree. It's time that Canada produces dreams of its own, and address issues relevant to Canadians, instead of playing follow the USA.

  2. Wait a second: without NASA we cannot get off the darned planet. ESA is getting too expensive and does not really give value for our investment. That said,its is not too late to redirect the 1.9 billion towards Canadian strengths....robotics (lunar surface), mining, health... lots of good Canadian jobs here that do not require sending tax dollars to US because of the branch plant mentality.

  3. If we really wanted to launch into orbit, we could also call on the Russians or the Indians or anyone one of the private sector launch providers currently available. We're certainly not restricted to using NASA or the ESA as our sole options. As for the rest of your comment, I certainly agree.

    Chuck Black


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