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A quick history of Canada on the Moon

Did you know that Canada has been involved in Moon exploration since the 1960s? Explore the milestones of Canada's history related to the Moon.

The Apollo missions to the Moon inspired many generations in Canada and around the world. Canadians contributed to these missions in a number of ways. As humanity prepares to return to the Moon, a new generation of Canadians can experience the thrill and excitement of space exploration and discovery. These historic missions will inspire young Canadians to reach for the stars and become the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers.

Over fifty years ago, Canadian expertise made humanity's first steps on the Moon possible. Now, Canadian astronauts reflect on that incredible lunar legacy, and look ahead to a future when Canadian astronauts will participate in a Moon mission. (Credits: Canadian Space Agency, NASA, Héroux-Devtek)

    • The Prince Albert Radar Laboratory is inaugurated in Saskatchewan. Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower have a telecommunication conversation by means of a radar signal that bounces back from the Moon.

    • Astronaut Alan B. Shepard becomes the first American in space after a 15-minute flight aboard his Freedom 7 capsule. The communication antenna of the spacecraft is Canadian and is known as STEM (storable tubular extendible mechanism). It was built by De Havilland Aircraft of Downsview, Ontario. It was originally designed for Canada's first satellite, Alouette I.

    • Astronaut John H. Glenn achieves the first U.S. orbital crewed flight when his Friendship 7 capsule, also equipped with a Canadian-built STEM antenna, circles Earth three times during a five-hour space flight.

      Buzz Aldrin unpacks experiments from the Eagle lunar lander

      Buzz Aldrin unpacks experiments from the Eagle lunar lander. We can see the Canadian legs of the lander. (Credit: NASA)

    • U.S. astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander of the eight-day mission Apollo 11, becomes the first person to set foot on the Moon, followed by Buzz Aldrin. Using a landing gear built by Héroux Aerospace (now Héroux-Devtek) of Longueuil, Quebec, the Eagle had touched down in the Sea of Tranquility earlier that day.

      James Chamberlin, an engineer born in Kamloops, British Columbia, suggested a two-ship rendezvous in space to NASA, with a command module that would orbit the Moon and a lander that would head to the Moon's surface. NASA ultimately chose his idea. Sarnia, Ontario-born engineer Owen Maynard played a key role in the planning and design of the lunar landing module, the Eagle, used in the Apollo missions. He had worked on the Mercury capsule that carried U.S. astronauts into space for the first time. He and dozens of Canadian engineers and scientists worked at NASA on everything from spacecraft design to mission planning, like Bryan Erb, from Calgary, Alberta, who helped develop the heat shield that would protect the Apollo 11 astronauts.

      Canadian flight surgeon, Dr. William Carpentier, looked after Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin during their quarantine after the flight. Unlike today, scientists did not yet know if astronauts returning from the Moon would carry bacteria back to Earth. That is why they had to wear biological isolation suits.

      Apollo 11 crew

      Dr. William Carpentier, wearing orange, is seen with the crew of Apollo 11 after their recovery from the Pacific Ocean. (Credit: NASA)

  • If you've watched the movie Apollo 13, you know that the crew of this ill-fated mission encountered big problems during their flight, which prevented them from landing on the Moon. Engineers at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies were asked to perform calculations around the pressure needed to safely separate the re-entry capsule from the lander. (Spoiler alert: the astronauts landed safely in the Pacific Ocean!)

    Apollo 16 astronauts training in Sudbury, Ontario

    Apollo 16 astronauts Charlie Duke (left) and John Young training in Sudbury, Ontario, in . They are wearing electric Hasselblad cameras similar to the ones they used on the Moon. (Credit: NASA)

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    Apollo 16 and 17 crewmembers came to Sudbury, Ontario, to get geological training and study impact structures, breccia and shatter cones, similar to what could be found on the Moon. Hit by a comet roughly 1.8 billion years ago, creating the Sudbury Basin, the region is known for its rich nickel ore, among other metals and was the perfect stand-in for the Moon.

    • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces Canada's commitment to partner with NASA on the Lunar Gateway. Canada will contribute Canadarm3, a highly autonomous robotic system that will use cutting-edge software to perform tasks around the Moon without human intervention.

    • The Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development announces a national space strategy. Canada's commitment to participating in the Lunar Gateway forms the cornerstone of Exploration, Imagination, Innovation: A New Space Strategy for Canada, which aims to leverage Canadian strengths like robotics, while advancing science and innovation in exciting areas like artificial intelligence and biomedical technologies.

    • On behalf of Canada, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President Lisa Campbell signs the Artemis Accords, which set out principles for cooperation in the civil exploration and use of the Moon, Mars, comets and asteroids for peaceful purposes. The other signatories are Australia, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

    • The Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry announces that the CSA has secured two astronaut flights as a result of signing the Gateway Treaty with NASA. A CSA astronaut will be part of Artemis II, the first crewed mission to the Moon since . The other mission will take a CSA astronaut to live and work on the Lunar Gateway.

  • The Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry announces investments of $3 million in technology initiatives for lunar exploration through the CSA. Canadian companies will test cutting-edge technology during upcoming lunar missions and, in partnership with NASA, a Canadian rover will land on the Moon within the next five years.

    Canada is designing a rover for Moon exploration. (Credit: CSA)

    In a future not so far away…

  • Canada will make history when a CSA astronaut flies around the Moon as part of Artemis II, the first crewed mission of the Artemis program. This astronaut will be the first non-American to fly to the Moon, making Canada the second nation to travel around the Moon. Another CSA astronaut is confirmed for a flight to the Lunar Gateway at a later date.

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    A Canadian rover carrying at least two science instruments will land on the Moon to explore its polar region. The mission will demonstrate key technologies and accomplish meaningful science.

  • (subject to change)

    Canada will deliver Canadarm3 to the Lunar Gateway. Canadarm3 is a highly autonomous robotic system that will use cutting-edge software to perform tasks around the Moon without human intervention. The system will have several parts, including a large, 8.5-metre-long arm, a smaller, more dexterous arm, and a set of detachable tools.

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