CSA President MacLean Makes the Case for Canada in Space (Part 1)

At the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting held in Vancouver, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President Steve MacLean gave a talk titled International S&T (Science and Technology) Collaboration. MacLean did a good job of recounting Canada's entry into space and the many accomplishments Canada has. He also made a few pointed remarks. In this multi-part article we publish the transcript of MacLean's speech for everyone to read. But first a little background.

Unfortunately SpaceRef could not attend the meeting. However we did know some of the people covering the meeting and followed their tweets. It was through these tweets that we thought the public, who weren't at the event, should have the opportunity to read what MacLean had said. He made a really good case for Canada in space and was candid with his comments. We would like to see more candid talks from government figures.

When we contacted the CSA to obtain a copy of his speech we were told in an email "unfortunately it will not be possible", that's it. Earlier today, before we published the speech, we asked them why? We had already received a professionally transcribed copy from an audio recording of the speech. The CSA responded by saying that MacLean had not read from his prepared speech but in fact had ad-libbed it. Fair enough. We were told future speeches might be made available, it was up to Maclean to decide.

This brings up important issue. The event MacLean spoke at was a public event for which the Canadian government was a sponsor and MacLean is a public servant. So why then was the speech not made available regardless of whether he ad-libs it or not? This is not the first time we've run into this situation in Canada with public servants. And we're not blaming MacLean for this situation. It's the government culture that's to blame. Government needs to be more open, transparent and accountable to the public. And we understand the need to balance what the public has the right to know and what must sometimes be kept under wraps. But there is no excuse to withhold speeches made at public events.

SpaceRef is an international company doing business in the U.S. and Canada. In the U.S. our problem is rarely getting speeches and good material from NASA and other government sources, quite frankly, it's the opposite. The policies in the U.S. make government information public domain and we get more material than we can process. But not in Canada. This is a something which needs to change. However, that is unlikely to happen especially with the current government. So we'll just do our best and get the information the public has right to access including through the Access to Information Act. Below is the full transcript of MacLean's speech. If you're interested in the space sector it's a must read.

Introductory Remarks

So good afternoon. I'm Charles Alcock. I'm the Director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and I'm the Chair-elect of the Astronomy Section of AAAS. But I'm honoured now to introduce Dr. Steve MacLean, President of the Canadian Space Agency, who will deliver a lecture entitled International S & T Collaboration. Dr. MacLean is a laser physicist by training, but he's an astronaut by avocation and he's had two shuttle experiences, in 1992 on Shuttle Columbia, where he performed experiments including the evaluation of the space vision system and more recently in 2006 on Atlantis where he was flight engineer, arm operator - we've all seen these beautiful images of that famous Canadian arm - and he actually had a space walk. Shortly after that he became president of the Canadian Space Agency and with no further ado, Dr. MacLean.

Well it's my pleasure to be here. We're such a small group; I feel like I should just tell stories or something instead of giving you this speech that I prepared and it's sort of a little - it's important to me. You know I was thinking when I flew into Vancouver, I haven't been here for a while but before I got married I was in this neck of the woods every summer climbing mountains and so I kind of felt not homesick, but - what's the word Ira?

Lonely, kind of.

C.P. Snow's Book Science and Government

Yeah and nostalgic, thank you. I hope that's not a sign of how articulate I'm going to be for the next 30 minutes. Yeah, I felt nostalgic because I'm not climbing a mountain this time, but I can tell you back in the 70's when I was studying hard as a physicist - and we used the libraries back in those days - but every two hours I would take a break. And I would take a break because I needed to stand up and stretch my legs and I would head to the mountaineering section of the library and for five minutes just read about some guy who was upside-down, stuck and deciding whether or not to cut the rope of his friend who was below him, you know, and that gave me the energy to go back and study partial difference from equations for another two hours.

I can remember one time I walked a slightly different way to get to the mountaineering section and I saw up on the top shelf in a section - I didn't know what section I was in - a very tattered book, an incredibly tattered book. I mean you could imagine it somehow maybe a car had run over it and there'd be tire treads on it or something. And I thought to myself as I looked up at it, I go that must be a very good book. And so I pull it down off the shelf and it's C.P. Snow's book Science and Government. And I have learned recently that that book is - it's like the Bible for someone in political science, it's required reading. And I would recommend you read that book because it's how decisions are made in government and at that young age, back in the 70's, I found it shocking, okay? Now, I am a bureaucrat. I never thought I would be a bureaucrat. I'm very much more technically-minded. In fact my vocabulary is even more technically-minded that the bureaucratese that exists in Ottawa. So that book is worth reading.

Now that book though, is in the center of an entire row of books that you could tell had never been touched. And I was very curious about those titles. For example: Industry and Government in Canada, The Engineer in Government, Canada's Economic Future, Problems of Industrial Readjustment, The Industrial Front, Report on the Finance Expansion of Industrial Capacity. And I've just done 1945 to 1951, okay? This was about 1977, the story that I'm telling here. There were rows and rows of books titled like this.

And so periodically I sort of diagonally read those books and they were all about innovation, every single one of them, how Canada can do better. The vocabulary has changed, words have changed, but the concept is still exactly the same. It's ideas, talent, collaboration and capital that you need for innovation and sometimes the collaboration is network collaboration and linkages or the infrastructure of the framework for the infrastructure. I mean the vocabulary changes but it's basically those four things.

If you go back there today, and look at the titles that are there and I actually didn't so I'm imagining it, but the last four or five recent books since 2008 that are along that venue are Innovation in Business Strategy - Why Canada Falls Short, Imagination to Innovation - Building Canadian Paths to Prosperity - State of the Nation 2008, Canada's Science Technology and Innovation System - State of the Nation 2010, and then of course most recently the Jenkins Report. And they all talk exactly the same way, ideas, talent, collaboration and capital.

Innovation

Now, The Canadian Space Agency I think is driving innovation in Canada and we do it through procurement. Our budget this year - depends how you count it - so sometimes I'll say $424 (million), sometimes if I'm feeling good I'm say $443 (million), because our expected expense were $424 (million) and our actual are going to $443 (million). This is a substantial amount of money if you coordinate it properly and if you do it - if you recognize that we're only one third of what the rest of the country is contributing in space. D & D has another amount that's equivalent to that and five other government departments, it adds up to an amount that's equivalent to that. We have a fair amount of money that's involved with procurement that is driving this nation. And one thing I'm particularly proud of is that when I started just over three years ago, only 68 percent was going out and I've managed to get 75 percent to go out to industry, where I believe innovation is driven at its heart. I'm going to talk about academia here in a minute. Now we have 75 percent and I still have a couple hundred engineers that are doing internal work or internal research so that we know where we're going with respect to what we're doing in industry. We have got an incredibly efficient outfit at the Canada Space Agency, but because we're so small - we're only 3.4 billion in revenues a year - we do not get mentioned in any of those books, and yet I think we have the best model for where we're going. And so what I want to do, I want to take you back - because we drive innovations through procurement - I want to tell a couple of stories about the models that we use and why we're using them. I'm going to start with the year 1962.

Now it's five years since the launch of Sputnik. It's been about a year since Yuri Gagarin flew followed by Alan Shepard just a month later. And so the public are ripe for what's happening in space. The United States and the Soviet Union are in the space race. It's dubbed the space race. Obviously it was for scientific gain but obviously there was political rationale for the space race. But whatever the motives, at that point in time there were only two countries that were in orbit. But on September 29, 1962 that all changed and at 6:05 in the morning, the Canadian satellite Alouette 1 was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base and Canada became the third country to launch a satellite into space. Our purpose there was to study the atmosphere.

Continue to part 2, part 3, part 4