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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:

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. A CSA astronaut 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.

Animation of Canadarm3 operating on the exterior of the Gateway, in orbit around Earth's Moon. (Credits: CSA, NASA)

Canada's contribution to the Lunar Gateway

Canada's contribution will be Canadarm3, a smart robotic system.

It will include several parts:

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 both in lunar orbit and on the surface of the Moon

How will it work?

Each end 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.

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.

Canadarm3 is designed to work by itself, without human intervention. This is essential since there will not be people on board the Gateway at all times. However, the system could also be operated by robotics flight controllers in Canada, or by Gateway crew during spacewalks. However, communications delays will prevent constant direct real-time control of the robotic system from Earth.

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

A Canadian lunar rover

The Canadian rover will explore a polar region of the Moon within the next five years. Two Canadian companies, Canadensys and MDA, have been selected to design lunar rover concepts.

The rover will carry at least two science 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

An important challenge of long missions to the Moon and Mars is to keep astronauts safe and healthy.

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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