This Week in Space for Canada

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Canada in Space

Space tourist Guy Lalibert publishes his orbital scrapbook, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronauts step up their efforts to remind us that they "still have a bright future," although maybe not as government astronauts and the new federal minister of industry (who's also responsible for the CSA) has a background in agriculture and natural resources management, which should give him a understanding of the growing space based geomatics industry. All that and more, this week in space for Canada.

Our first story this week comes from the May 17th, 2011 New York Times Style Magazine article "Big Sky." The article promotes space tourist Lalibert's new book, which is focused on terrestrial teleology and topography and wrapped around pictures he took during his adventure aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2009.

Titled "Gaia," the book describes itself as being a "stunning (series of) photographs of the Earth taken (by Lalibert) from 220 miles away during his eleven-day trip orbiting the earth as a private space explorer, with unique views of nearly forty countries. A documentation both rare and captivating, his images are natural works of art, rich in color and texture."

According to Lalibert, "all the pictures are basically natural. But you take the photographs through the window, and, of course from the stratosphere, there was a kind of a milky thing to it. Which we cleaned up a bit. But basically the photos were pretty much just what I was seeing. What is in the book is exactly the frame I took, we didn't cut any frame or readjust anything."

The book is certainly pricy (at $875 USD for the "special edition" which won't be available until June) but if the promotional stills are anything to go by, the images are fascinating and well worth taking a look at. Hopefully, subsequent printings will cost less.

And besides, it's good for Canadian astronauts to cultivate a potential second source of income although you wouldn't know it by looking at current CSA press releases, which brings us to our second story.

As the curtain on US space shuttle program slowly lowers, it's worth noting that most of our past, present and potential future CSA astronauts have stepped up their efforts to remind Canadians that "there is still a bright future for them among the stars," at least according to the May 12th, 2011 Vancouver Sun story "Next generation of Canada's astronauts still see future in the stars."

The article quotes new CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen as being "adamant" that the end of the shuttle program doesn't mean Canadian astronauts should temper their ambitions of exploring space.

He's right of course, but the question on everyone lips isn't whether there will be any more Canadian astronauts, especially since Vision 2000 executive VP Stephanie Anevich announced at the last Canadian Space Commerce Association (CSCA) meeting that she was one of thirteen confirmed Canadian's who have so far signed up for suborbital astronaut trips aboard the Virgin Galactic (VG) Space Ship Two.

There will indeed be many more Canadian astronauts and many more immediate opportunities to explore space via suborbital excursions, through commercial trips to the ISS as happened with Guy Lalibert and even into deep space and around the Moon if the May 17th, 2011 Washington Post with Bloomberg report "Space Tourism Takes Off" is any guide.

But the real question here is whether there will be any more CSA government supported astronaut trips to space after Chris Hadfield returns from his expected long duration stay aboard the ISS in 2012-2013.The CSA has so far announced no trips after Hadfield's and seems unlikely to do so soon.

It might be worthwhile to know officially how much currency remains in the CSA budget for astronaut trips either in cash or as part of a tech trade with another space agency. After all, someone has got to pay for these trips and this is something that the commercial astronauts understand explicitly.

Of course, I'm an optimistic sort who thinks that ex-Canadian astronauts won't have too many problems finding gainful employment, even if it's not as astronauts. After all, Davie Williams, a former astronaut has just been named president and CEO of the Southlake Regional Health Centre according to the May 18th, 2011 Toronto Star article "Astronaut named president of Newmarket hospital" and Marc Garneau seems positioned to become temporary head of the liberal party according to the the May 13th, 2011 CTV.ca article "Marc Garneau makes his case for becoming interim Liberal leader."

But I'd like to see something good happening at our space agency this week. Fortunately, there may be a bit of good news for our space agency coming down the pipeline from a most unexpected source, which leads into our final story.

Christian Paradis, the Conservative MP for Mgantic--L'rable has been appointed Minister of Industry in the new Stephen Harper Government, a position which would also make him responsible for the CSA.

His appointment might indeed be good news.

As outlined in the May 18th, 2011 Spaceref.ca article "Christian Paradis to Become Industry Minister Responsible for Canadian Space Agency" his background includes stints as Secretary of State for Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and the Rural Secretariat, plus previous appointments as Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Natural Resources.

This background gives the new minister a solid basis for understanding the new and growing science of geomatics. As outlined in my March 2nd, 2011 spaceref.ca article "Growth in Space Utilization to Benefit Canadians," data obtained about the Earth from space now has the precision to contribute meaningfully to resource tracking, mining, farming and industry.

This is essentially what the CSA and it's subcontractors are spending most of their time thinking about these days (at least when they're not thinking about CSA astronauts). It's important that the politicians in charge have an understanding of the issues involved.

That's all for this week in space for Canada.

--
Chuck Black is the Secretary of the Canadian Space Commerce Association, a member of the Canadian Space Society, active in the International Association of Space Entrepreneurs and looking for the next big opportunity to make a little money off the high frontier. I live in Toronto, Ontario and can be reached at chuck.black@spaceref.com.