Canadian Lunar Workshop – Canada Could Be Involved in the Artemis 4 and 6 Missions

The Moon appears smaller from Orion’s perspective on flight day 22 as the Artemis I spacecraft continues distancing itself from our lunar neighbor, over 200,000 km away in this image. Credit: NASA

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen and administrator Martin Bergeron, spoke about Canada’s contribution to the Artemis program, and how Canada (and Canadian companies) were contributing to the return to the lunar surface, at the beginning of this week’s Canadian Lunar Workshop.

The workshop began with comments by Canadian Space Agency CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen, who will be one of the four astronauts that will be circling the Moon as part of the Artemis 2 mission. Hansen began his presentation by talking about how this was the culmination of a lifelong dream and of his career at the CSA. He focused strongly on the importance of goals: that his goal was to be an astronaut, that the goals of many other people helped bring us to this point, and that “if we set goals in space, we can bring benefit to humanity.” He added that “there is no better way to deliver global solutions today than to create a solution from space.” 

He said that this goal-oriented approach is how he (as a Canadian) was able to join Artemis 2. Hansen emphasized that “we weren’t just given a seat on Artemis 2, we were invited on Artemis 2 because we were bringing real value to an international collaboration.” He said that Canada needed to focus on being “ strategic” in their contribution to Artemis, and that Canada’s resources meant that the CSA “sees us fitting into this much broader picture” with our focused contributions. Organizations that want to contribute were encouraged to approach it similarly, and that “If you don’t fit into this bigger picture, it’s going to be very hard to secure investment in these areas.” 

He also advised organizations to think about Mars and, to a lesser extent, about in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). Saying “this is a program to take us to the Moon, but focused on Mars,” he told workshop attendees that “that’s where you have to think about how you fit into this international collaboration to help us ultimately get humans to Mars: set[ting] up reusable transportation infrastructure, leveraging the Moon [using ISRU]… and leveraging Canadian niches like robotics.” He added that long-term lunar infrastructure like Gateway will not only create new opportunities and capabilities, but will be a key tool for enabling commercialization of space.

Moving on, he said that “something that’s applicable to all of you is $150 million for the next five years for the second tranche of LEAP” (Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program). They’ll be looking at “what technologies do we think could enable us to accomplish those broader goals.” He mentioned Canadensys and the Canadian lunar rover project as an example, but also pointed to medical care and Connected Care Medical Modules (C2M2) as a great example of a lunar project with enormous significance to remote and indigenous Canadian communities.He also mentioned food production as a goal, and gave a mention to the Deep Space Food Challenge.

In a presentation on Canada’s lunar efforts, CSA Interim Director of Space Exploration Development Martin Bergeron sounded similar notes. He called the current moment “a very exciting time for space exploration,” and that it has expanded “all the way from low earth orbit to the exploration of the solar system.” He pointed to the operations at the Gale Crater on Mars, to the samples they’ll be receiving from the OSIRIS-REx mission to the asteroid Bennu, and to the James Webb Space Telescope as examples of these “exciting” developments, before turning to an explanation of the lunar program. 

Like Hansen, he emphasized the importance of collaboration to the Canadian approach, and that it was Canada’s signing of the Artemis treaty (and contributions to the Lunar Gateway) that landed Canada its position on Artemis 2. He said that Canada may well be involved in Artemis 4 and 6 as well, and that it is “under discussion,” with announcements expected within the year. This would suggest the potential for two Canadian astronauts to visit and land on the Moon, a potential first for the country.

On Canada’s robotics contributions to Gateway, Bergeron said that things are coming along. The external robotics interface has passed preliminary design review, with a critical design review in the first quarter of the next calendar year. Canadarm 3 has completed its system design review, and the team is working on the preliminary design review, also planned for the beginning of the next calendar year. He pointed to “the over 400 people involved,” in both industry and government, working to “help and maintain Canada’s leadership in advanced robotics.” He also pointed to the $76 million that the federal government has earmarked for the utilization of the Lunar Gateway, and that ‘we’re targeting a start for early payload development this year.” It’ll cover “a wide range of potential applications from astronomy, space weather, astronaut health and life sciences,” he said, adding that the CSA plans to award five concept study contracts, with the most promising ones moving on to phase zero studies. 

Bergeron said that he’s “really proud of all the accomplishments of LEAP” in providing opportunities for Canadian science and technology activities, including both the academic community and small and medium enterprises. There were “more than 500 highly qualified personnel that were involved one way or another” across 36 unique organizations, many of which had no ties to space before, leading to six distinct space missions enabled by LEAP so far. He said the CSA has issued lunar-related RoIs, technology development contracts, capability demonstrations, technology development announcements of opportunities, and “two of our largest ever lunar science investigation grants by consortia led by Simon Fraser University and Western University.” They’ve also selected six teams to develop science instruments under phase zero, with the “primary component being the lunar rover mission under development by a consortium led by Canadensys,” which will be delivering science instruments (including Canadian instruments) to the lunar surface and demonstrating the ability to survive through the lunar night. The instruments are coming along; the only issue was a delay owing to an attempt to join NASA’s PRISM-2 mission. 

He moved on to talking about lunar surface exploration initiatives, which are focused on “identifying preparatory activities that help define…the next major infrastructure investment that we could make for lunar exploration.” He pointed to seven potential areas: AI, agriculture, autonomous and intelligent robots and rovers, mining and ISRU, power generation distribution, as well as bionics and communications. These are related to concept studies that are going to finish this summer, and the CSA will then select five of those contracts to continue to a second phase involving prototyping. 

Bergeron hailed the recent announcement of $1.2 billion over 13 years in funding for the Canadian lunar utility vehicle program, saying that it will help “position Canada to secure the future of human spaceflight,” and that he hopes that it will inspire Canadian interest in STEM (particularly in students), enable lunar science, and create public engagement. To that end, they plan to “work closely with industry” on the project, as well as seeking international partnerships. They’re also going to be hiring a new director, and at least 10 other people, to help with this challenge, to “start a dialogue with you, the Canadian stakeholders,” and to begin to define their procurement approach.  

Like Hanson, he also pointed to health care as a potential Canadian contribution, and to the Deep Space Healthcare Challenge. He said that they were progressing to stage three with five teams selected for that, and that they also received bids to design, develop, and build the C2M2 devices that Hansen mentioned in his proposal. Like Hansen, he also said that producing food in space will be a key priority.

About Craig Bamford

Craig started writing for SpaceQ in 2017 as their space culture reporter, shifting to Canadian business and startup reporting in 2019. He is a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, and has a Master's Degree in International Security from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He lives in Toronto.

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