Everyone remembers Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's trip to the International Space Station in 2012-13, when the commander charmed the world with his guitar-playing and social media savvy. But his trip is only one of 16 that Canadians have made to space.
Our participation was first made possible by contributing the Canadarm, a robotic arm that caught and released many satellites (including the Hubble Space Telescope). It was also used to build the ISS. Today, the next-generation Canadarm2 snatches visiting spacecraft to the station, and the robotic Dextre has been used to test out satellite refueling at the same facility. These robotic operations could help out as NASA plans human missions to Mars or an asteroid.
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Usually Canadian accomplishments drum in the background, even in my own country. We take our expertise in robotics, and the contributions of our Canadian astronauts, for granted. It comes at a danger; in 2012, an aerospace review board expressed concern about the CSA's lack of budget stability. Critics also pointed to the long gap after Hadfield's mission until the next Canadian astronaut flies in space, which has now been confirmed for 2018. That being said, new astronauts are being recruited now for probable future missions in the 2020s.
I know I'm biased since I report on this sector all the time, but I just find it so exciting when a Canadian mission gets any international attention. I've been told we punch above our weight in space, and I feel like we are making a contribution when I see missions such as OSIRIS-REx. I just hope we pay attention to OSIRIS-REx long after it leaves Earth, and that we pay similar attention to future Canadian space initiatives.
GALLERY: A Short History Of Missions to Asteroids: