The Canadian government announced on February 29th that it would renew its commitment to the International Space Station through the mission extension to 2020. Christian Paradis, the Canadian minister of industry, made the announcement to representatives of the other ISS partner nations at a group meeting in Quebec City.
“We are helping to maintain Canada’s leadership in space technology and its every day critical applications,” Paradis said. “Jobs and growth are a top priority for our government. We also recognize that maintaining Canada’s place in technology leadership is part of the solution for economic growth and prosperity.”
Prior to the announcement, there had been some speculation that Canada would not continue to support the ISS mission, particularly due to the Canadian Space Agency’s shrinking budget. Fiscal projections released by the federal government have the CSA’s budget reduced to 363.2 million CAD in 2012-2013, a cut of roughly 15%. In particular, the budget for space exploration was reduced by 52.4 million CAD.
Canada’s principal contribution to the ISS is the robotic manipulator arm known as the CANADARM-2, and the robotic “hand” known as Dextre. Together with a small share of the stations common operating costs, the contribution gives Canada access to 2.3 percent of the stations laboratory capacity under the ISS founding inter-governmental agreement and a memorandum of understanding with NASA.
Canada’s contributions also give it rights to a small number of crew slots on the station for Canadian astronauts; Chris Hadfield is scheduled to fly on a 6-month ISS expedition at the end of 2012. However, following Hadfield’s flight, there are no more scheduled flights for Canadian astronauts before the end of the mission extension in 2020.
The video below shows a time-lapse video of the CANADARM-2 and Dextre robotic manipulators in operation on the ISS.