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Evaluation Summary Space Astronomy Missions and Planetary Missions Programs

About the programs

Space Astronomy Missions (SAM) Encompasses the definition, design, technology development, implementation and use of complete Canadian space telescope systems and the provision of Canadian instruments, sensors and subsystems to international space telescope or probe missions. It generates scientific data about the universe through the observation of the solar system and deep space.

Planetary Missions (PM) Encompasses the definition, design, technology development, implementation and use of Canadian exploration signature technologies and scientific instruments made available to international exploration missions. It supports the robotic exploration of remote bodies (planets, asteroids, etc.) to conduct detailed observations and science.

About the evaluation

Evaluation covers the period from to during which the total disbursements amounted to over $100 M.

Conducted in in response to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's Policy on results ().

The evaluation's purpose is to systematically collect and analyze evidence on the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of these programs, as well as unintended outcomes for the reporting period

It is the first evaluation of the SAM & PM programs.

The evaluation used a mixed-methods approach that combined qualitative and quantitative analyses which included:

  • Documentation review
  • Key informant interviews (with the CSA, industry, academia and international partners)
  • E-surveys
  • Two case studies

What we have learned?

  • The programs are highly relevant and well aligned with the government's innovation agenda and the CSA's mandate.
  • These programs are essential to maintaining a world-class cadre of astronomers and planetary scientists in Canada dedicated to advancing the knowledge of space through scientific discovery.
  • The CSA is the only federal organization that provides the scientific community with access to space astronomy opportunities and data.
  • Canadian instruments on space astronomy and planetary missions have transmitted a constant stream of observations and images of various types and quality over the years.
  • The programs are highly cost-effective which have contributed to Canada's reputation in the international space exploration community.

How can we improve the programs?

  • The evaluation found that the engagement of the science teams was delayed due to a lack of grant funding at start-up and fragmented funding for scientific research during and after missions.
  • The principle of end-to-end funding for science team participation in space missions is generally accepted as a standard best practice.
  • Recommendation: The program should develop clear guidelines that clarify the definition and scope of science support to missions in order to allow for the continuity of science support funding throughout all phases of a mission from pre-definition phase to post-operation activities.

Canada's influential position among the leaders in space exploration research is a source of pride and inspiration to attract and retain highly qualified personnel in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines that are essential to an innovative and productive Canadian economy.

Creation of a specialized research institute

Continued growth in scientific production by SAM & PM funded researchers

Number of publications:

  • SAM: From 82 to 149
  • PM: From to 15 to 20

Benefits to the scientific community

  • Opportunities to influence the development of space research
  • Design & deliver their own scientific instruments
  • Guaranteed observation time
  • Priority access to research data for 6 months

With relatively modest investments, the programs were successful in obtaining access to space mission infrastructure that Canada on its own could never afford, such with James Webb Space Telescope and the Mars Science Lab. In exchange for investments, there were scientific, cultural and economic benefits for Canadians.

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