My Vision for Canadian Space Exploration

Dear Canada,

I grew up enraptured and mesmerized as I watched Space Shuttle launches and followed with bated breath as the Space Station was assembled with Canadarm2 or when Dextre first launched. I have witnessed three Canadian astronaut selection campaigns and had an ear-to-ear, long-lasting smile after waiting in line for Roberta Bondar’s autograph.

I dreamed of space travel and how my role in the Canadian space program would revolutionize space exploration. How I would be able to contribute when I grew up. Ready to make my mark on the Canadian aerospace sector and shape how we think of space travel.

And here I am. But it is not anything like I imagined. Instead of joining a thriving sector that is advancing complex projects in an era of rapidly progressing technology, I am left wondering how I can revive Canada’s contributions to space and tap into a very powerful group of youth who want to define the future of exploration and reshape the face of space – essentially a dynamic group of Gen Y just waiting to change the world. So why are you holding us back now?

Working on huge space projects like rovers for planetary exploration or advancing technology that is a catalyst for on-orbit satellite servicing requires immense resources. But there is high pay off and opportunity to ensure that the Canadian aerospace industry grows and leads exploration. Recognizing the importance of space exploration for the next generations. Investing in space exploration to propel terrestrial activities and growth in a variety of sectors.

The last year has shown incredible flux in Canadian space, although it is shifting in the wrong direction. In the last year alone:

• MDA’s $280 million USD agreement to build an on-orbit satellite repair system with satellite services provider Intelsat dissolved.

• Funding for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) LELR and MESR rover designs ran out in early 2012. The products were delivered to CSA but it is doubtful they will ever fly on a mission.

• The Federal government announced an aerospace and space review for 2012. While the Global space industry is growing by 41% over five years, Canada is slowing down. Canada was surpassed by other BRIC countries as leaders in space exploration. David Emerson’s final Aerospace Review Report at the end of 2012 called for new oversight of the CSA and recommended the removal of both its current policy-making role and any direct involvement in the design and manufacture of “space assets purchased by the government.”

• It took over a year for the Federal government to release the budget to complete the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM).

• After the sale of MDA was blocked by the government in 2008, MDA finally succeeded in gaining entry into the US marketplace by purchasing Loral Space Systems. It is absolutely unclear whether this will provide any growth or incentive for the Canadian divisions.

• I said I had witnessed three Canadian astronaut selection campaigns. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the two Canadian astronauts chosen in the latest selection process will fly anytime soon. But kudos to Chris Hadfield for bringing attention back to space exploration and getting Canadians excited of our role on the International Space Station again.

It seems that Canada is not always willing to undertake the risks associated with space exploration. But exploration is all about risk. Through exploration we can aggressively push to find out ‘why’ and how things work, testing new ideas, leading to revolution and innovation. Recognizing that the greatest error is not to have tried and failed, but that in trying, we did not give it our best. Recognizing that we are ultimately responsible for our contributions to space exploration and that these contributions can help advance complex projects to be sustainable on Earth in an era of extreme change. The key to the next generation of exploration is a progression of technology. Taking the lessons we’ve learned on the Space Shuttle program or the International Space Station and applying it to a new wave of technology, especially now where we are advancing space robotics to a stage where we can be more socially conscious of what we are putting into space and how that will affect us long-term.

Canada, it is time to harness the drive of a dynamic group of youth just waiting and wanting to explore and push boundaries. To capture the hearts of a nation by bringing Canada’s role in space to the forefront, using focus and discipline to overcome any hardships that might be endured while developing advanced technology and complex projects. To overcome all barriers and reach success. It is time to stop resting on the shoulders of giants, put legacies aside, and blaze a new trail even though unexpectedly we may find ourselves in a role where our performance has ultimate consequences. We must and will answer to that when the time comes.
We will show through innovative engineering projects how valuable insight, discipline, and perspective can bring, because perspective fosters objectivity, which ultimately gives way to progress.

Canada, your next generation of space explorers have an absolute curiosity; a fascinating sense of aggressive curiosity for science, technology, and engineering. We want to push and test ideas, leading to revolution and innovation. We are the next generation of fearless and innovative leaders, with a vision for a movement. We will build a community of supporters to transform our ideas into a reality. We will engage our community to be our ultimate champions as we endure hardship and struggle en route to ultimate space goals.

Canada, it is time to invest wholeheartedly in the next generation of space exploration and dive head-on into challenge without wavering at the first sign of risk. Using the foundations of teamwork, competence, toughness, discipline, and responsibility to prove we are aerospace leaders.

We were your dreamers and supporters when it mattered. Now it is time to support us.

Sincerely,

A next generation space explorer.
With ♥, Canada

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