WASHINGTON – NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) have finalized an agreement regarding Canada’s participation in the Artemis program, which involves flying a Canadian astronaut on a mission around the moon in 2023.
The agreement, announced on December 16 by both agencies, confirms that Canada will provide the Canadarm3 robotic arm for the lunar route. It will also provide interfaces for the gateway module so that it can go into the exterior of the gateway to install and maintain the payload.
In 2026, a commercial logistic spacecraft will take Canadarm3 to the lunar gate. SpaceX received a contract from NASA in March to deliver cargo to the station using a version of its Dragon spacecraft called Dragon XL.
In return, Canada will get two seats on the future Artemis mission. One would be on Artemis 2, the first crew flight of the Orion spacecraft scheduled for 2023, which would fly around the moon. The second would be a mission to the lunar gate that would take place at a later, unspecified date.
The seat on Artemis 2, expected to be the first crew mission beyond Earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972, was a special point for Canadian authorities. During the announcement of an agreement between NASA and CSA, Canadian minister of innovation, science and industry Navdeep Bains said, “It will be the only other country after America to have its astronauts in deep space.”
Canadian officials said they did not choose whether its four current astronauts would fly on either the Artemis 2 or later Gateway missions. CSA President Lisa Campbell said, “Canada has a strong core of highly trained professional astronauts, either of which would be an excellent choice.” A decision by Artemis 2 would be made closer to launch, but it did not deliver a special schedule.
NASA also has not made any crew assignments for Artemis 2 or later missions. On 18 December, the agency announced nine “Artemis teams” of NASA astronauts who would later be eligible for flight assignments. Andrea Matt, a spokesman for the Canadian Space Agency, said after the press conference that Canadian astronauts selected for those missions would then join the Artemis team.
In a NASA statement, Administrator Jim Bridenstein said Canada’s commitment to the Artemis program preceded the February 2019 announcement that it would develop Canadarm3 for the Gateway. “Canada was committed to advancing the gateway in early 2019, they signed the Artemis Agreement in October, and now we are excited to formalize this partnership for lunar exploration,” he said. .
Canadian officials used the announcement to discuss the progress of Canadarm3. CSA awarded the contract to MDA on 8 December, a Canadian company with experience in space robotics, including the original shuttle-era Canadarm and Canadarm2 at the International Space Station to begin Phase A technical studies of Canadarm3. The new branch will be similar to Canadarm2, but will incorporate artificial intelligence technologies to support operations when there is none on the gateway.
Four Canadian active astronauts – Jeremy Henson, Joshua Kutryk, David Saint-Jacques and Jenny Siedi-Gibbons – spoke at the briefing and all said they were excited about the possibility of flying on an Artemis mission. Flight opportunities are rare for Canadian astronauts in general, as it is the smallest of the ISS’s five major partners. Of the four, only Saint-Jacques has so far flown into space.
“The international core here in Houston is more excited by the moon, I’d say today, than the prospect of these missions,” Kutric said. “We are all feeling inspired right now, I hope all Canadians can feel inspired.”
Asked if he thought he would ever get a chance to go to the moon, Hansen said he became an astronaut in 2009, when NASA was still implementing the constellation program to send humans to the moon, But this new effort is a “tremendous opportunity” for Canada. “I’m excited that a Canadian will be on Artemis 2,” he said. “We’re paving the way for more work in space for Canadians: Ultimately , Hopefully, one day a Canadian on the moon and Mars. “