Ottawa needs to make investing in lunar technology a top economic priority, so that Canadian industry can win its share of the rapidly expanding extraterrestrial market.
That was the message delivered by Brian Gallant, CEO of the industry lobby group Space Canada, during the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) 2nd Canadian Lunar Workshop. Held entirely online May 30-June 1, 2023, the Lunar Workshop’s line of space experts was so popular on Day One that it maxed out its Zoom bandwidth online, requiring extra spectrum to be added before all interested participants could sign in.
“Why should Canada make the lunar economy a priority?” asked Gallant during his presentation. “It provides an opportunity to use the Moon as a proving ground and launchpad for the exploration of deeper space to advance Canada as a global technological leader and to position Canadian industry to help our country reap the rewards of the lunar and low Earth orbit economies to which the expected growth is significant.”
Given Canada’s role in developing cutting-edge space technology, such as the Canadarm3 robotic arm for NASA’s Gateway orbiting lunar station, our industry has the know-how to triumph in the emerging extraterrestrial market, Gallant contended. “Canada has a long history as a space nation, which I’m sure most listening would be very well and keenly aware of, going back 60 years to when Canada was the third country in space,” he said. “Canada is seen as a prized and sought-after partner for lunar initiatives as well, with its well-trained astronaut core and deep industrial expertise.”
Of course, Canada isn’t the only nation eager to cash in extraterrestrially. “As launching into space becomes more accessible, there is a global race to lead the new space economy and to harness space to overcome the most pressing societal and planetary challenges,” warned Gallant. “The increasing recognition of the power of space is one of the very reasons why the new space economy is growing so rapidly and why governments around the world are investing heavily in their domestic space industries and space programs.”
This is why the Canadian government needs to go above and beyond current space funding programs such as the CSA’s Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP), which the 2nd Canadian Lunar Workshop was designed to showcase. Although Space Canada was pleased to see funding for Gateway and the development of an astronaut-carrying lunar utility vehicle in the most recent federal budget, “we also encourage the federal government to further invest in programs to support the space sector specifically and initiatives that will help tech research-based organizations, SMEs and startups more generally, so that they’re able to start up thrive and scale up in Canada,” Gallant said.
In a nod to SpaceX’s relentless pursuit of success despite setback such as the “rapid unscheduled disassembly” of its Starship during launch on April 20, 2023, Brian Gallant urged the Canadian government and space industry “to be able to fail and fail quickly” in the pursuit of extraterrestrial market opportunities.
“It definitely feels weird to say that because as individuals and organizations we don’t really want to fail, but nevertheless, it is a part of success,” he said. “And when it comes to the space sector, there’s a lot of innovation happening, which requires taking risks, which requires us to be okay with the fact that once in a while there will be some failures, but those failures will bring us every single time one step closer to the major success that we’re seeking.