To the Moon, Canada!
Canada is going to the Moon! Isn't that exciting?
NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and other partner space agencies are planning the development and construction of the Lunar Gateway, a small space station orbiting the Moon.
What is the Lunar Gateway?
About one-sixth of the size of the International Space Station (ISS), the Gateway will serve as a science laboratory and a testbed for new technologies.
The Gateway will also be:
- a rendezvous location for exploration of the surface of the Moon
- a mission control centre for operations on the Moon
- one day, a stepping stone for voyages to Mars
Unlike the ISS, which has been inhabited continuously since , the Gateway will not have a crew on board at all times. When fully assembled, crews of four astronauts will live and work on the Gateway for up to three months at a time, occasionally travelling to the lunar surface to conduct science and test new technologies. Eventually, these missions could last longer in order to prepare for the deeper-space missions of the future.
What's in it for Canada?
In return for its contribution, Canada has opportunities to do lunar science and test technologies. Canada will also be able to send two astronauts to the Moon. CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen will be part of Artemis II, the first mission to the Moon with astronauts on board since . A second astronaut will fly to the Moon later on, at a date to be determined.
Canada's contribution to the Lunar Gateway
Canada's contribution will be Canadarm3, a smart robotic system.
It will include several parts:
- a large, 8.5-metre-long arm
- a smaller, more dexterous arm
- a tool and on-orbit replaceable unit caddy
The current target date for delivering Canadarm3 to the Gateway is , but is subject to change.
What will Canadarm3 do?
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 in lunar orbit
Canadarm3 is designed to work autonomously. However, the system could also be operated by robotics flight controllers in Canada, or by Gateway crew during spacewalks.
How will it work?
Canadarm3's smaller arm will be equipped to transfer mission-critical material between the interior and the exterior of the space station.
The small arm will be able to help repair the larger arm in space if necessary and reduce the need for astronaut spacewalks. This means that, thanks to advances in autonomy, Canadarm3 will be able to maintain itself in space and swap out parts. In addition, Canadarm3 will benefit from the latest developments in artificial intelligence to plan the robotic missions, optimize resources and monitor system performance.
Each of Canadarm3's arms will be able to attach to the Gateway using specially designed interfaces on the Gateway's exterior. Each anchoring "
hand" will plug into an interface that supplies power, data, and video connections.
For future deep-space missions, these interfaces will also be installed on visiting vehicles, and on payloads delivered to the Gateway, allowing Canadarm3 to retrieve and reposition them. These interfaces will also allow the large and small arms to work together to accomplish tasks, and will help store tools when not in use.
A Canadian lunar rover
The Canadian rover will explore the south polar region of the Moon. The Canadian company Canadensys has been selected to design and build the lunar rover.
The rover will carry six instruments to demonstrate technologies and accomplish science. The mission will gather imagery, measurements, and data on the surface of the Moon. The rover will also have to 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.
Health and nutrition
Astronauts in space have limited access to healthcare providers and medical resources, as well as long travel times to healthcare facilities. These are in fact common challenges faced by people living in remote communities here on Earth. The CSA is working closely with experts to find solutions in remote and autonomous healthcare that will benefit both astronauts in space and Canadians living in remote areas.
The CSA is also collaborating with NASA and Impact Canada to encourage Canadian innovators to develop technologies to produce tasty and nutritious food with minimal resources. These technologies are not only for use on long-duration space missions, but also have the potential to benefit people living in remote and harsh environments like Canada's North.
Are you as excited as we are about this next chapter of Moon exploration?
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