orion and the Canadarm

By Benjamin Vermette

Astronaut Flight Training Program

I always thought flying is a good training method for an astronaut — and it still is.

Jeremy R. Hansen, a CSA (Canadian Space Agency) astronaut, was back with the RCAF to sharpen his skills on a CF-18 this November.

“How do you prepare an astronaut for the unknown in space? The answer is you challenge them, you try to put them in as many unique and challenging circumstances as you can find, and aviation provides a lot of challenge,” explains the former CF-18 pilot, a native of London, Ontario.

His co-worker, David Saint-Jacques, agrees with Jeremy, “Psychologically, being in an aircraft is very similar to being in a rocket, because you are dependant of this machinery […]. You have to constantly filter out what is important and make decisions that kind of have big impacts. You cannot press pause while being in a jet.”

Saint-Jacques does not train with the old CF-18 —  he was never a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force — so he trains with the other astronauts on the T-38 Talon at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

NASA’s Orion Program

Lockheed Martin’s Orion capsule was attached to the Delta IV Heavy Rocket this November, and is currently getting ready for its flight test on December 4.

Orion will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and will test the controls of the capsule, preparing it for deep space exploration, where it will eventually set foot on Mars.

The Orion’s capsule will fly 15 times higher than the International Space Station, and will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean about four hours after launch.

This spacecraft is going to push the boundaries of scientific discovery and human achievement,” said Michael Hawes, Lockheed Martin’s Orion program manager.

Lockheed Martin looks forward to expanding in both sectors: defense and security, and space exploration, and the Canadian aeoronautic and aerospace industry is contributing by being a partner of the F-35 Lightning II program.

“It’s [the F-35] the best of all the available choices. It provides the best value for money, the best platform to address the security needs of Canada through to 2050, which is probably how long we’ll have this airplane,” said LGen (Ret’d) Angus Watt.

The Canadarm in Ottawa 

Canada’s Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, Ontario, is primarily an aviation museum. Since the creation of the museum in 1909, Canada’s aviation industry has expanded to include aerospace technology and, as you might have guessed, the museum’s collection has done the same and evolved to include space flight artefacts.

In November, one of Canada’s most famous robotic and technological achievements — the Canadarm — celebrated its 33rd anniversary.

The robotic arm was designed to deploy and retrieve objects in space, and was attached in the payload section of the orbiter. (An orbiter is the big spaceship that resembles a plane.)

The Canadarm was sent into space between 1981 and 2011, during NASA’s Space Shuttle Program, and was retired along with the shuttle in 2011, after nearly 30 years of successful operations.

The CSA working alongside NASA, negotiated the return of Endeavour’s (one of NASA’s orbiters) Canadarm. Endeavour’s robotic arm was then sent to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, and was displayed in an interactive exhibit allowing visitors to navigate through the history of this technological achievement.

This exhibit commemorates an important part of our history in space. The Canadarm is a symbol of our country’s ingenuity and expertise in space robotics. It has positioned Canada as a leader in space,” said James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.

It is very impressive to see a big robotic arm that travelled 624 million kilometres while orbiting the Earth — you should get out there and check it out!