Saturday, May 03, 2014

Lowered Expectations at the NEW Canadian Space Agency

          by Chuck Black

Eighteen months after the David Emerson led review of aerospace "and space" activities (the Aerospace Review) recommended a complete housekeeping at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and two months after Industry Minister James Moore announced the formation of two committees for public input and fiscal supervision of CSA activities, the new management under CSA president Walt Natynczyk, has defaulted to the comfy, low overhead strategy of funding small, preliminary projects to "run up the flagpole" of other government departments and international organizations where more substantive funding (and political support) might just possibly be found.

Astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Jeremy Hansen, with Industry Minister James Moore and CSA president Walt Natynczyk in Ottawa during the February 7th, 2014 announcement of Canada's Space Policy Framework, which incorporated many of the recommendations of the Aerospace Review. The government overview of this new policy approach is described in the "Canadian Space Agency Implementing Canada’s Space Policy Framework" which was made by Natynczyk during a February 25th, 2014 CSA meeting in Longueuil, PQ. Photo c/o Industry Canada.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Here are a few of the more recent awards:
ASTRO-H project manager Tadayuki Takahashi. Graphic c/o JAXA.
Hyperspectral data collected by the Galileo Group, as part of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flight operations and data collections for a series of missions supporting a NASA sponsored project. The data sets can be used to establish sea grass bed location, extent and its photosynthetic production, and can play a key role in monitoring changes over time relating to environmental conditions. Photo c/o Galileo Group
Now that everyone knows that new initiatives require political and fiscal backing from outside the CSA in order to move forward, business has begun to ramp up the public relations machine.

Typical of these efforts are two potential projects discussed in the April 30th, 2014 Vancouver Sun article "Metro Vancouver firm MacDonald, Dettwiler & Associates, looks to future in deep space," which described two potential "deep space" missions, which could move forward, given some cash and the proper public support.

The first, described as "the EML-2 Deep-Space Habitat Mission" would establish a platform or staging area about 60,000 kilometres beyond the moon that could serve as a servicing or fueling depot for future lunar or deep-space exploration missions to Mars and other planets.

The second, an asteroid redirect mission would see "a robotic spacecraft travel to a small near-Earth asteroid (10 metres or less in diameter), capture it and redirect it to a safe orbit on the far side of the moon."

Both missions sound interesting enough but each will certainly require a great deal of public activism over the next decade in order to end up as anything more than another of the innumerable "power-point projects" currently clogging up the public presentations of space advocacy groups. 

Let's see how the public reacts to its new role as arbiter of our domestic space program.


  1. That was a long first sentence -- and a boring one. Hard to imagine the Canadian Space Agency sounding any duller, although I suppose it is possible.

  2. It's a comfy low overhead sentence to describe a government agency which is trying very hard to be very, very dull ;-)


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