The astronaut program was born with the contribution of Canadarm. NASA invited us as well to fly astronauts on the Space Shuttle and there was a nice relationship that was developed throughout those years. We became participants in the biggest engineering project ever conceived by man... And it is unbelievable that we prepared so well for the launch and of the Canadarm2 in 2001 with STS-100, and to come during that mission where there is a major glitch with computers on the Space Station during the time where the shuttle was present.
When we have these last minute issues come up and last minute changes to the mission, we have to attack the problem – the common objective is get the mission done. We needed to rework our plan and spend extended hours testing these products and getting them delivered on time so then we can do the final call and say that we are go for flight. Canadarm2 can do the job.
I am a mission controller and my basic job is the fly the arm. We're the ones that send most of the commands from the ground. Depending on the operations sometimes it is also the astronauts on the Space Station that do the flying of the arm, but even then we're massively involved.
When an astronaut comes to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for some training on the Canadarm2 we have a series of theoretical classes. One of the reasons it is somewhat renowned is that we are not afraid to tell these astronauts that "No, you did that wrong. Let's work on it, and you're going to do it the right way."
My prediction is that Canadarm3 will be a telescopic arm so the segments the arms the upper and lower arms will be able to compress and fit into smaller launch vehicles. Communications satellites that require refuelling will be able to be serviced by Canadian technology. I predict Canadarm3, like Canadarm2, will outperform its predecessor.
Being able to say that "You know that guy or that woman who is up there operating the Canadarm2 in space? Well, I trained that person."
When we saw Chris Hadfield and his American partner undoing the bolts, deploying the arms, and commenting about it, it was a moment again of pride but also of accomplishment.
You participate in operations that you basically built and then the astronauts call down to thank you by name. It is something very remarkable to participate in things like that.
My team and I have probably the coolest job in Canada, or I would even venture on Earth. We get to operate the Canadarm2 and we have been doing so for the past ten years. Not only that, but since 2005, we are able to control the Canadarm2 from the ground and in that way we are able to help the astronauts do their job more efficiently while allowing us to basically play like big kids.