In this early Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, file photo, a waning moon is seen at the sky over Frankfurt, Germany. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Probst, File

In this early Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, file photo, a waning moon is seen at the sky over Frankfurt, Germany. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Probst, File

Canada inks deal with U.S. to send astronaut around the moon

The treaty includes a commitment to having a Canadian on board when the U.S. conducts a manned flyby of the moon in 2023

The federal government has signed an agreement with the United States to send a Canadian astronaut around the moon as part of a broader effort to establish a new space station above the lunar surface.

Industry Minister Navdeep Bains unveiled the new Gateway Treaty on Wednesday, which formalizes Canada’s involvement in the U.S.-led effort to build that new station known as the Lunar Gateway.

The treaty includes a commitment to having a Canadian on board when the U.S. conducts a manned flyby of the moon in 2023, as well as a second yet-to-be-scheduled flight to the future station.

“Canada will join the U.S. on the first crewed mission to the moon since the Apollo missions,” Bains said during a news conference with Canadian Space Agency astronauts Jeremy Hansen, David Saint-Jacques, Joshua Kutryk and Jenni Sidey-Gibbons.

“Launching in 2023, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut will be part of Artemis 2, the first mission to carry humans to lunar orbit in over 50 years. This will make Canada only the second country after the U.S. to have an astronaut in deep space.”

The new treaty also formally confirms that Canada will contribute a new robotic arm to help with construction of the Lunar Gateway, which will orbit the moon and allow for exploration of the lunar surface and assist future missions to Mars.

The government last week committed $22.8 million toward development of the new Canadarm3 by MDA Canada.

The Canadian Space Agency is one of several partners in the U.S.-led endeavour along with the European Space Agency and their Japanese counterpart. Russia has also expressed an interest in joining.

The Lunar Gateway is projected to be about one-sixth the size of the International Space Station in orbit around the Earth, with plans to build it over the next decade.

Bains did not say how much Canada will spend to participate in the Artemis 2 flight, which will come after an unmanned flyby of the moon that the U.S. has scheduled for next year.

“It’s important to note that we’re a spacefaring nation, and very proud of our space history,” he said. “And this investment with regards to the Artemis 2 program, as well as the overall space strategies, is well over $2 billion over the next 24 years.”

Bains later said in an interview with The Canadian Press that the two flights as well as the Canadarm project and other robotics programs on the Lunar Gateway are included in the nearly $2 billion set aside for space.

The minister defended Ottawa’s planned investment in space, touting the economic and scientific benefits that come from Canada’s involvement in extraterrestrial exploration – a sentiment echoed by some of the astronauts in attendance.

MDA president Mike Greenley made similar comments in an interview following the announcement as he welcomed the new treaty with the U.S. as a win for Canada’s robotics sector and space industry.

“And then the astronauts’ flights are highly, highly motivational for the rest of the country,” he added.

“It’s been clearly demonstrated that the motivation of youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math and STEM professions has been inspired by astronauts in the space program, is high. And so you’re driving the next generation.”

As for the purpose of the Artemis 2 flyby, Kutryk said it will help test the rockets and other systems needed to start work on the Lunar Gateway.

“It’s worth pointing out here that this will be, I think, the farthest and fastest that any human in the history of our species has ever gone,” he said. “And so it’s a very big deal to be able to do just that: get a vehicle that far away and then safely recover it back to Earth.”

They also spoke about the excitement and interest that is generated among young Canadians who may be encouraged to pursue careers in robotics and other areas with potential links to space.

Exactly who will get to fly past the moon has yet to be determined.

“At some point, we will assign a crew and that’s when we’ll find out which Canadian astronaut is going to be selected,” Hansen said.

“One of the things that’s really important to us as an astronaut corps is the word ‘team,’ and that we take on these big challenges together … and it doesn’t turn into a competitive process, but turns into a process of us lifting each other up all the way.

One of the main drivers in the U.S. plan to get back to the moon has been Donald Trump. Bains suggested the president’s imminent departure from the White House next month after losing the November election to Joe Biden does not threaten the program.

“We’ll continue to remain engaged with the Americans,” he said. “But so far, all signals have been positive and we’ve heard nothing to the contrary. There’s a great deal of commitment to this program. And I believe it’s bipartisan.”

While Artemis 2 will not touch down on the moon, the U.S. has plans to land a ship on the lunar surface in 2024.

Bains would not rule out a Canadian being on that trip as well, saying: “Conversations are ongoing, and I wouldn’t necessarily close that door yet.”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

JAK's Liquor Store in Penticton will be donating 10 per cent of its sales on Saturday, June 19, to the Penticton Salvation Army Food Bank. (Photo from JAKS.com)
Stock up your liquor cabinet and support the Penticton food bank

Jak’s beer and wine store is donating a portion of sales to local food banks Saturday

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

The illegal open fire above Naramata continues to smoke on Friday, June 18. The fire was left to burn itself out by BC Wildfire. (Monique Tamminga - Western News)
Illegal open burn in Naramata will be left to smoke

BC Wildfire could not confirm whether the property owner had been fined

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Most Read