How Canada is participating in the return trip to the Moon
On Monday, a rocket will take off in orbit around the Moon, the first stage of humanity’s great return to the lunar surface.
But it’s not just an exciting time for NASA. This time, the return trip to the Moon is an international collaboration, which will see Canadian technology and Canadian astronauts make clear lunar history.
Canada is heading for the moon – and Monday is just the beginning.
In less than a decade, scientists hope to have developed a space station called Lunar Gateway to serve as a springboard for travel to Mars and beyond, and Canada is developing a rover to explore the surface of the Moon.
“The idea is to set up a base camp on the surface of the Moon, with an orbiting space station that will orbit the Moon,” University of Guelph physics researcher Orbax Thomas told CTV. NationalNews.
« This will allow scientists to research and learn things from the Moon in hopes that as we continue to expand into the lower regions of the universe and move towards establishing colonies in places like Mars, we will have the opportunity to learn how to do it while we are relatively close to home.
At Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, the mission, dubbed Artemis I, will launch during a two-hour window on August 29, the first test of a series of space exploration systems on which NASA and its partners have worked. for years.
Using the most powerful rocket humans have ever built, the unmanned Orion spacecraft will be sent into space to orbit the Moon to collect data and test the spacecraft’s capabilities.
Only mannequins will be inside the Orion, but the spacecraft is designed to support humans, making this first test a crucial test for future missions.
Paul Delaney, professor of physics and astronomy at York University, told CTV News Channel on Saturday that these dummies are « bristled with radiation detectors, ensuring that exposure to deep space radiation that the astronauts will undergo is within the expected limits ». limits. »
Once the 300-foot-plus spacecraft completes its 42-day mission in space, it will return to Earth, plunging into the ocean to test how future astronauts will get home.
If Artemis I succeeds, it will soon be time for Artemis II, the first crewed flight to the Moon, and it is then that Canada’s role in lunar exploration begins to become crucial.
A NEW CANADARM, A ROVER AND CANADIANS AROUND THE MOON
Artemis II, currently slated for 2024, will see a spacecraft carrying four humans into orbit around the Moon for the first time since 1972.
One of these astronauts will be from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and will be the first non-American astronaut to go to the Moon. It will also make Canada the second country with an astronaut to orbit the Moon.
A Canadian astronaut is also guaranteed to make another flight in the future to the Gateway, the eventual space station in orbit around the Moon.
The Gateway will also house one of Canada’s greatest contributions to this stage of space exploration: the latest iteration of the iconic Canadarm.
In 1981, the first Canadarm made its debut in space. These giant robotic arms were attached to the outside of space shuttles and controlled by astronauts in the shuttle, used to move objects in space that astronauts otherwise couldn’t.
The International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth currently houses Canadarm 2, which is permanently mounted on the space station and can be controlled from Earth or by astronauts on the station.
The Canadarm 3 will actually be smaller and lighter than previous versions at 8.5 meters long, but is expected to feature artificial intelligence, six 4k cameras and other advanced technologies.
« It’s the farthest Canadarm in space we’ve ever had, » Orbax said, noting that while the ISS is about 400 kilometers above us, the Gateway will be 400,000 kilometers from the Earth.
« And it won’t just be moving objects around, helping the shuttle Orion dock with the Gateway space station itself, but it will actually be used to build the Gateway itself. »
The ability of Canadarm 3 to perform certain tasks without guidance will be extremely important to the operation of the bridge once it is built. The space station won’t always be crewed, and there will be regular intervals when the Gateway is completely out of communication with crews on Earth, as its orbit takes it to the opposite side of the Moon.
According to the CSA, the Canadarm 3 will even be able to perform scientific experiments on its own while racing around the Moon.
The Canadarm has always been one of Canada’s best-known contributions to space technology; it was Canada’s agreement to contribute Canadarm 3 for the Gateway that secured a place for a Canadian astronaut on the Artemis II.
Once the Gateway is built, scientists will be able to shuttle between the Moon’s surface and the Gateway space station orbiting the Moon.
And soon, we will leave new footprints on the lunar surface. As early as 2025, Artemis III could carry a crew to the Moon itself.
This mission aims to land the first woman on the Moon and the first person of color.
« NASA is going to make history, » Randy Lycans, NASA’s general manager of enterprise solutions, told a news conference.
The return to the surface of the Moon will be followed by a first in Canada: a lunar rover.
In 2021, it was announced that a Canadian rover would land on the Moon within five years as part of planned lunar missions with NASA.
The CSA has already selected two Canadian companies, MDA and Canadensys, to design rover concepts.
The goal is to create a rover capable of surviving the lunar night on a planned two-week mission. A night on the Moon lasts 14 Earth days and conditions are extremely cold, as well as completely dark, posing challenges for rovers.
The rover hopes to complete a mission to the Moon’s south pole to test scientific instruments that help regulate functions such as mobility, navigation and thermal management, information that could help us on future trips to Mars.
The mission deployment that begins Monday with Artemis I is led by NASA, but involves contributions not only from the CSA, but also from the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Although this next stage of space exploration begins with a return to the Moon, the goal is to prepare us to probe even deeper into space, with a lunar outpost as a reference for future research and future space travel.
« Space, unlike everything else, unites us as a people, » Orbax said. « Whether you’re an academic, a scientist, or a citizen, everyone looked up and wondered ‘what’s going on out there in the universe above us?' »
With files by Cristina Tenaglia