Thursday, March 07, 2019

If Canada REALLY Wanted to Go To the Moon, We Should Support Bob Richards or Call Elon Musk

          By Chuck Black

The Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is at least being honest when talking about Federal motivation to participate in the US Lunar Gateway.

As outlined in the March 6th, 2019 Canadian government press release, "Launching Canada's Space Strategy," the key priority of the strategy is "investing in science, innovation and research" which, according the press release, will unlock "new opportunities for economic growth," create "thousands of jobs for hard-working Canadians," and help Canadian's "understand the world we live in and our place in it."

But while there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the government's stated motivations, some (in office and elsewhere) have argued that the Moon is now "the central focus of the new space strategy and investments," despite what the press release explicitly states.

Those arguments are obviously in error. The new plan is simply about jobs on Earth.

If Canada really wanted to land Canadian rovers and explore the Moon remotely, we'd provide a few extra tens to millions to Cape Canaveral FL based Moon Express.

As outlined most recently in the November 30th, 2018 post, "Procurement Contracts, Not Science or Engineering, Will Define the Next Generation of Robotics and Planetary Rovers," the company and it's expatriate Canadian founder Robert Richards already possess major Canadian connections and a skill-set widely expected to land rovers on the Moon within the next two years for far, far less than what Canada is spending on the Lunar Gateway.

If our focus is really on the Moon and if we want to land rovers there to explore, we should call Moon Express.

Of course, we might also want to send astronauts to the Moon. In that case, we might want to send a few hundreds of millions of dollars to Elon Musk, the CEO of Hawthorne CA based SpaceX.

That's still hundreds of millions of dollars less than we would be spending under "Canada's New Space Strategy" which, as outlined in the March 7th, 2019 post, "Minister Bains Releases "Canada's New (Sorta) Space Strategy," But No Details or New Funding Announcements," is already expected to cost billions.

And Musk already has rockets. Lots of them They're reusable, better than anything anyone else can field and already dominate the international launch market.

He's also got spaceships.

As outlined in the March 3rd, 2019 post, "Crew Dragon Docks at International Space Station," SpaceX is currently rolling out a human rated rated capsule which could begin ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) within the next year.

Musk, who holds South African, Canadian, and US citizenship but lives in California, has made no secret of his wish to explore space, the Moon and colonize Mars.

As outlined in the February 1st, 2019 Futurism post, "Elon Musk’s New Goal: “Reach the Moon as Fast as Possible,” the entrepreneur has the skill and the knowledge to get there, but is working with a limited, private sector budget.

A few hundred million extra dollars from the Canadian government would certainly solve the cash flow problem and allow Canada to land our astronauts on the Moon at a far lower cost than contributing a next generation Canadarm for the Lunar Gateway and hoping for the best, which is the plan being promoted in Canada's new space strategy.

Of course, calling Musk or Richards won't unlock "new opportunities for economic growth," create "thousands of jobs for hard-working Canadians," or even help Canadian's "understand the world we live in and our place in it," at least not as government understands it.

Nor will it help to protect jobs at legacy space companies like Brantford ON based MDA Space Systems, the subsidiary of Westminster CO based Maxar Technologies which builds the iconic Canadarm or the hundreds of Canadian Space Agency (CSA) employees who need to do something to justify their salaries.

As outlined in the March 01, 2019 post, "Maxar Technologies Misses Q4 Revenue Estimates; Will Retain SSL Subsidiary & Drop Dividend to $.01 US per Share," Maxar is hoping for at least one more big sale to save its bacon. Musk and Richards can't help with that.

But then, the object of the new Canadian funding isn't to get to the Moon. It's jobs.

In this, the Canadian plan has much in common with the US Space Launch System (SLS) which, as described in the February 19th, 2019 Ars Technica post, "After nearly $50 billion, NASA’s deep-space plans remain grounded," hasn't really accomplished anything except for acting as a jobs program.

But at least that retained workforce is more likely to vote for the politicians who supported the SLS and saved their jobs. In that way, one could argue that the SLS also saved political jobs.

Expect much the same to happen in Canada over the next few years, as the Lunar Gateway initially seems to move forward and then doesn't.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chuck, Aloha from Hawai’i –

    Wow, congratulations on your very perceptive, positive understanding and proposals, especially re: Moon Ex, which has always been Moon 1st.

    I hope your article is widely read and proposals rapidly pursued throughout Canada and beyond.

    Best wishes, Galactically,

    [ Steve Durst, Director,
    ILOA / Galaxy Forum
    Space Age Publishing Company
    Hawai’i and California


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