A year after the last Shuttle flight an iconic piece of Canadian hardware, the Canadarm from the orbiter Endeavour, has left the Kennedy Space Center and is on its way to the MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) Brampton facility to be “sanitized and refurbished”. Once that is complete, the Canadarm will go on display at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) headquarters in St. Hubert, Quebec just south of Montreal sometime in November. The question is, how many Canadians will see it?
The original plan was to display the Canadarm at a Canadian museum and possibly have it move around the country if the arm was in good condition. However the size and weight of the arm would make it difficult to move from location to location and would be costly so that idea was scrapped. That left the Canadarm heading to a single museum. Which one was still up in the air. We asked our readers in a poll in May 2011 where they thought the Canadarm should go. By a narrow margin the vote was for the Canadian Air and Space Museum in Toronto followed by the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.
Neither location would be selected. In a decision that wasn’t fully explained at the time, the CSA decided the Canadarm would be located at their headquarters. While the CSA headquarters is a nice facility, it’s not exactly on the tourist circuit or even a place the locals visit and isn’t setup for tourists. So why there?
Speaking with Gilles Leclerc, Director General, Space Exploration of the CSA today, SpaceRef was told that the CSA wants the maximum exposure of the Canadarm and that it is the CSA’s hope that the arm winds up in a museum, perhaps in a couple of years. The reason for it being displayed at the CSA headquarters for now is to assess it’s viability for display in a museum. The Canadarm weighs 431kg and is approximately 15 meters in length. The Canadarm was designed for use in space and is incapable of supporting its own weight here on Earth and it must be supported by specialized ground handling equipment.
The first of the five Canadian built Canadarm’s went into space on Space Shuttle Columbia on November 13, 1981. Designed to deploy and retrieve space payloads, the robotic arm worked perfectly on 90 Shuttle missions, spending a total of 944 days in space.
Leclerc said that when the Canadarm goes on display it will be located in the lobby of CSA headquarters and available to the public to view it during regular business hours at no cost.
Video: Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-2) mission highlights with the 1st Canadarm in space.