This Week in Space for Canada

In space, no one can hear your electioneering, which could mean curtains for Canada’s never released and long buried, long term space plan. Plus, a Canadarm actually retires to Canada, although we’re not quite sure just where yet (after all, my Canada always included Florida, especially in the winter) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) just keeps needing more money, more money and more money. All that and even more, this week in space for Canada.

Our first story today comes to us in the midst of a national election via a series of online and traditional media publications such as April 14th, 2011 article “Spacewalks cool says astronaut” which quotes some rather obvious, apple pie statements from Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Chris Hadfield, and the April 13th Canadian Press article “Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk reminisces about Gagarin flight 50 years later“, which is a nice article for the insight it provides into a public figures childhood, but kinda reminds me more of a puff PR piece for the famous Russian icon than a useful interview with a working, Canadian astronaut.
The commercial space sector is also bereft of space policy debate and important announcements this week and is likely to remain so for the next little while. As outlined in my April 9th, 2011 “This Week in Space for Canada” there is even one space systems company (satellite operator Telesat) expected to go out of it’s way to avoid making any important announcements until the federal election is concluded on May 2nd.
It’s likely that others feel the same way, which accounts for the puff pieces and the lack of interesting announcements. No one wants to rock the boat during an election.
This is a shame since much of what holds back the release of the Canadian long term space plan and useful discussion on the future role of the CSA is political. An election campaign is the obvious time to be discussing politics and holding politicians accountable for the reports they’ve commissioned, but hidden and seem afraid to release.
We’ve even had public announcements from CSA officials indicating internal reorganizations to come into compliance with the never released long term space plan, which seems odd if there has been a rejection of the plan by the federal government.
Elections are for clarifying these types of issues by asking questions and demanding answers from our public officials. If we can’t ask questions now, we have no legitimate expectation of ever being able to ask questions after the election.
When this election is over and the votes are finally counted, our present window of opportunity will close, perhaps permanently this time. Future debate could even be absorbed into a larger “aerospace” focused debate dominated by the F-35’s, which is likely also an important issue, but perhaps not as important as some of the other space related issues discussed in this website over the last few years.
After all, Canada’s very first long term space plan (back in 1967) helped build Telesat, MDA, Comdev and entire Canadian industries focused on telecommunication, Earth imaging and other scientific advances that have likely pumped just as much money into the Canadian economy and created just as many jobs as the F-35 program is ever expected to do.
We should ask for the release of the hidden long term space plan now, before the recommendations have been superseded by events, our politicians are returned to office and again secure in their jobs and our bureaucrats return to citing unapproved and unreleased documents as justification for policy or the absence of such.
Of course, this brings us to our next story, which is kind of frivolous, but there is an election going on and I just don’t want to rock the boat any more.
According to the April 12th, 2011 CBC News article “Canadarm: Where would you like to see it end up” there are a variety of possible suitable locations where the Canadarm (from the soon to retire space shuttle Endeavor) could end up. We at SpaceRef think a few more places should be considered so we’ve setup our own poll.
My vote is for the Canadian Air and Space Museum, in Downsview Ontario, which is within driving distance of where I live. What’s your choice?
And this brings us to our last story this week.
The JWST continues to hemorrhage money, according to the April 12th, 2011 Aviation Week article “Mikulski Presses Bolden On Cost Of Webb Telescope.” According to the article, the JWST, a NASA led project with international collaboration from the European Space Agency (ESA), the CSA and with contributions from fifteen other nations, is currently $1.5 billion USD over budget and the deficit is still growing.
That’s all for this week in space, for Canada.

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