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Will Canada be sure to join the next-generation space station project?

Amit Chakma is the president and vice president of Western University

Members of the Canadian space community, including academics and business leaders, are currently engaged in an urgent dialogue that highlights how the window can be closed by Canada's ability to take the lead in developing the global space economy, as well as future space exploration.

The impetus for this timely conversation is the emerging Lunar Gateway, an international project coordinated by NASA that could expand human expansion throughout the solar system. Lunar Gateway in conjunction with public and private partners imagine small stations that will be sent in orbit around the moon, design and construction over the next decade. From there, the astronaut could build and test systems to promote the Moon's exploratory process, conduct a series of deep space experiments, improve satellite communications, and take on future challenges to more distant destinations, including Mars.

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Unlike the International Space Station, which is about 400 kilometers from Earth, the Lunar Gateway orbits more than 400,000 kilometers a month. Such a feat means overcoming many scientific and technological problems, especially in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence, areas where Canadian power is proven.

Not surprisingly, industry leaders and university researchers from different disciplines regard the scale and complexity of the Lunar Gateway as a unique opportunity to use their expertise to engage exciting collaborative projects with genuinely global impact and potentially aesthetic economic benefits.

Canadians have many reasons to be enthusiastic about the Gateway project, starting with our impressive 60 years of space history. We were the third country to launch in satellite orbit (1962 – Alouette 1); the first to operate the domestic telecommunications satellite (Anik in 1972); and the first to use direct home broadcasting in 1982. Canadarm, used for space shuttle missions and the International Space Station, has become the icon of national pride and the world-famous symbol of Canadian inspiration. Only the United States and Russia have shipped more astronauts in space than Canada.

And yet, although space agencies from the United States, Europe, Russia and Japan are affiliated with the Lunar Gateway partner, Canadian participation rates for international risks remain a question mark. In fact, the space in Canada has declined in recent years. While other space nations have increased their investment in space as a percentage of GDP, Canada has fallen from eighth place in 1992 to 18th in 2016 and our investments are not based on long-term plans for decades.

However, there are hopes that a broader Canadian space strategy based on some convincing economic arguments will be supported. For example, Morgan Stanley recently predicted that global space industry revenues could rise to $ 1.1 trillion by 2040, compared with a $ 380 billion global space market 2017. The envisaged growth will be fueled by the rapid expansion of Earth observation and communications satellites over the next 20 years, providing more and more satellite images, remote sensing and global positioning data to improve our quality of life and security.

Also, speculation increases, as traditional industries, such as mining, will soon begin their allegations in space. Scientists theoretically claim that one football field-sized asteroid may contain precious metals worth more than $ 50 billion. By extrapolating from NASA data that around 18,000 asteroids are orbiting the Earth, the total value of the nearest minerals in the sky could be as high as $ 700 in quintillia. Fortunately, this is not just a science fiction material, Luxembourg set up a $ 225 million fund in 2016 to encourage business space companies to build a store in the country with the goal of becoming the world leader in space exploration and launching asteroids by 2020. .

At the same time, it is important to note that investment in space exploration has had a significant positive impact on the Canadian economy and Canadian prosperity. Using the Canadarm experience in the development of NeuroArm in brain surgery to utilize tools for exploration for Mars in the mining industry, space exploration drives innovation and fosters technology development boundaries.

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12. In September, Navdeep Bains, Minister for Education, Science and Economic Development, named Sarah Gallagher as the first scientific adviser to the Canadian Space Agency for Western Academy of Physics and Astronomy. In his new role, Prof. Gallagher will help promote space science and shape the future direction of space research. A week later, Science and Sport Secretary Kirsty Duncan announced that the Science and Engineering Research Council funded a public awareness campaign led by the Western Planetary Science and Research Center Space Issues, which aims to highlight the importance of space for the Canadians and how it affects almost everyday life. the aspect of life.

These are positive signs that our government's leaders see the potential of Canada in space. However, we need to take some courageous measures that require significant government investment. The rates are too high and the time is too short if we seriously think that the new generation of Canadian researchers and business people can provide this country with a flourishing space economy. Canada can and should be an important player in the Lunar Gateway project.

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