Canada's role in Moon exploration
Countries from around the world are getting ready to send humans farther into our solar system, beyond the International Space Station (ISS). Nearly 400,000 km away from our planet, the Moon represents a crucial stepping stone in humanity's quest to travel onwards to Mars.
Canada has officially announced its participation in the exciting next chapter of Moon exploration, which will include:
- a smart robotic system known as Canadarm3 for the Gateway, a small space station that will orbit the Moon
- a program for innovative Canadian science and technology, including a Canadian rover designed for the Moon
In return for contributing Canadarm3, a smart robotic system, to the Lunar Gateway, Canada receives a range of opportunities for lunar science, technology demonstration and commercial activities, as well as two astronaut flights to the Moon. A Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut will be part of Artemis II, the first crewed mission to the Moon since .
Canada's contribution to the Lunar Gateway
Building on a strong legacy of international collaboration in space exploration, partners in the ISS, including Canada, are planning the development and construction of the Lunar Gateway, which is being led by the United States. The Gateway will serve as a science laboratory, a testbed for new technologies, and a hub for operations and exploration missions to the lunar surface.
Canada's contribution to the Lunar Gateway will be Canadarm3, a smart robotic system which includes a next-generation robotic arm as well as equipment and specialized tools. Using cutting-edge software and advances in artificial intelligence, this highly-autonomous system will be able to:
- maintain, repair and inspect the Gateway
- capture visiting vehicles
- relocate Gateway modules
- help astronauts during spacewalks
- enable science both in lunar orbit and on the surface of the Moon
The ability to perform these tasks without human intervention will be vital as the Gateway will not be crewed continuously, and communications delays caused by its lunar orbit will prevent direct real-time control of the robotic system from Earth.
Empowering innovative Canadian science and technology
The CSA launched a new initiative known as the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP). This program prepares Canada's space sector for lunar exploration by offering a wide range of opportunities for Canadian science and technology activities in lunar orbit or on the Moon's surface.
LEAP's objectives are to:
- Enable the Canadian space sector to develop and conduct science experiments designed for lunar conditions, to help prepare for robotic and human missions
- Advance and demonstrate innovative technologies in lunar orbit, on the Moon's surface, and beyond
- Begin to develop technologies that will be required as part of future deep-space missions
A Canadian lunar rover
One of the program elements within LEAP is the development, launch, and operation of a Canadian rover, set to perform technology demonstration. It will include one or more Canadian science instruments, on the surface of the Moon.
Canadian company Canadensys was selected to build with its partners the Canadian lunar rover as well as to develop the Canadian payloads. The rover will explore a polar region of the Moon as early as .
The mission will demonstrate key technologies and will gather scientific data with its six scientific payloads (five Canadian and one American) to help find water ice and allow scientists to better understand the lunar geology and environment.
The mission will aim to gather imagery, measurements, and data on the surface of the Moon, as well as to have the rover survive an entire night on the Moon. Lunar nights, which last about 14 Earth days, are extremely cold and dark, posing a significant technological challenge.
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