When Nathalie Nguyen-Quoc Ouellette was young, she didn’t see many stars in the intense skies over Montreal. But she would pore over the colorful, otherworldly images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and dream of becoming an astrophysicist.
“I actually fell in love with space and astronomy,” she said. “There’s a lot left to find.”
Today, the deputy director of the Trottier Institute for Research on Exoplanets on the Universite de Montreal moonlights because the outreach scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, a task that sees her connecting its science team with most of the people and children she hopes to encourage.
It’s a “truly implausible” moment for space exploration, said Ouellette.
From the stunning early images produced by the powerful latest telescope to the early success of the Artemis moon mission, the world’s fascination with space goes into hyperdrive.
And Canada is playing no small part in among the headline projects that made aspiring scientists starry-eyed again in 2022, with major milestones yet to come back.
But whilst Canadian space experts wax poetic in regards to the current landscape, they’re waiting to see if an influx in federal investment will proceed despite domestic economic pressures.
For the team behind the James Webb telescope– named after the NASA administrator who led the Apollo program– it’s been a “very, very busy yr,” Ouellette said.
The telescope, which sent its first dazzling images back to Earth in July, includes two Canadian components, and Canadian researchers are amongst those busy parsing its findings.
“In only a number of short hours of collecting data it was already blowing previous missions out of the water,” Ouellette said.
She noted that a University of Toronto team discovered among the oldest-ever globular clusters, or groups of tens of millions of stars held together by gravity. And sometime in the primary few months of 2023, researchers on the Universite de Montreal are expected to deliver the primary evaluation of the TRAPPIST-1 system, the house of seven Earth-like planets.
READ MORE: NASA’s Orion capsule enters lunar orbit, nears halfway mark of test flight
NASA’s Artemis mission, which is planning the primary human exploration of the moon for the reason that ’60s, also saw major milestones this yr.
The Artemis I flight, which saw the Orion spacecraft slip into a brief lunar orbit, was expected to return to Earth on Sunday after a successful launch Nov. 16.
Next yr, the Canadian Space Agency will announce which Canadian astronaut is joining the crew of Artemis II, which is predicted to launch in 2024.
That move will make Canada the second country on the earth to have a human go into deep space– or the region of space beyond the dark side of our Moon– said Gordon Osinski, a professor at Western University in London, Ont.
“I still don’t understand how Canada pulled it off,” he said, calling it an “incredible coup” that a Canadian astronaut shall be on board.
“A number of the images from Artemis I actually have just blown me away,” he said. “As someone who wasn’t alive during Apollo, seeing these images in real time is amazing. And so I feel that’s going to be very inspirational, that mission.”
Canadarm3, the successor to 2 previous robotic arms engineered in Canada, is predicted to launch in 2027, and its design by Canadian company MDA is already underway. It is predicted to dock on the Artemis mission’s lunar gateway, an outpost that may orbit the moon.
Meanwhile, Osinski has been named the principal investigator for Canada’s first-ever rover mission, which is predicted to land on the south pole of the moon as early as 2026. The design of the rover by Canadensys Aerospace Corporation will get underway in earnest next yr, he said.
“People have been talking about this for a very long time,” said Osinski. “For the past 10 or 15 years, we’ve been doing study after study. We’ve been paid to take into consideration doing this and develop concepts for it. But we’re actually doing it, which is de facto amazing.”
Canadian Space Agency President Lisa Campbell said this has been “a extremely exciting time” for the national space program.
“It’s like a dream factory and an innovation machine,” she said.
Campbell cited myriad ways in which Canada is involved with international projects in the private and non-private sectors which are focused on exploring the moon and beyond. But she also emphasized that Canadian efforts in space do not only go toward exploring its outer reaches, but in addition have applications at home.
The agency, Natural Resources Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada were promised $169 million on this yr’s federal budget to deliver and operate a latest wildfire monitoring satellite, which is predicted to launch in 2028.
Canada can be a part of an environment statement project with NASA that may collect data to anticipate extreme weather events on Earth.
And in 2022, the agency launched a deep space health care challenge, a contest to develop diagnostic and detection technologies that could be used each on crewed deep-space missions and in distant communities in Canada.
“The challenges of space push us to innovate the things that we’d like here on Earth,” said Campbell.
Many moon-related projects, including the rover mission, have received funding from the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program, a five-year $150-million fund that scientists equivalent to Osinski are hoping shall be renewed.
“I might hate us to have all of those missions to the moon in the following two, three years and that be it, after which form of be back to square one,” Osinski said. “The CSA must persuade the federal government that it is a worthwhile endeavour.”
While Campbell said this system has been “highly popular,” she wouldn’t say whether the federal government has committed to funding one other term.
“Additional investments are at all times welcome,” she said.
The federal Liberals’ space strategy, released in 2019, committed Canada to remaining a space-faring nation and recognized “the importance of space as a strategic national asset.”
Industry executives and experts say the country needs a booster to take care of a bonus in a sector poised to, well, skyrocket.
“We now have quite a bit more experience having firms that make their way in space than lots of countries do,” said Iain Christie, a longtime space executive and analyst.
“(But) we’re still dining out on work that was done 20 years ago.”
Until a few decade ago, space was a spot for presidency programs and huge militaries. The prices were too high for other players.
But aspects including miniaturization and the supply of off-the-shelf technology have drastically cut those costs. So has the entry of personal launch firms.
In 2000, putting a satellite into orbit cost $25,000 per kilogram. Now, depending on which rocket carries the load, it might be as little as $4,000.
“The fee of technology and the fee of launch decreased,” said Christie.
That created opportunity.
In 2011, Stephane Germain realized that increasing concern about greenhouse gas emissions was going to create demand to measure them, which may best be done from space.Today, his company GHGSat has six satellites in orbit, with one other 4 planned over the following yr. They’re capable of measure gases equivalent to methane with unprecedented resolution for each emitting firms and investors wanting to quantify their risk.
“Miniaturization got to the purpose where you possibly can do something useful with a really small satellite,” Germain said. “We were in search of that chance (and) that wound up being GHG emissions.”
That’s one side of the space economy. One other is constructing infrastructure.
In November, Canadensys Aerospace Corporation announced it might construct a lunar rover for NASA’s next moon mission. Weeks before, MDA Ltd., which also operates satellites, announced the second sale of their Canadarm technology to an organization constructing a non-public space station.
The importance of those sales goes well beyond their dollar value, said MDA CEO Mike Greenley. They put Canada where the puck goes.
“There are opportunities to speculate in lunar infrastructure,” Greenley said communications networks, electric vehicles, even space-based mining.
“There are a mixture of recent areas.”
Canada’s long history in space–it was the third country to launch a satellite– has also given it recognized expertise in techniques including synthetic aperture radar, which allows satellites to look through clouds or at night with amazing accuracy.
All of it adds as much as an industry value about $5.5 billion a yr that employs about 23,000 highly trained Canadians, based on the Canadian Space Agency’s most up-to-date report.
But that’s only a small piece of the worldwide pie.
The European research agency Euroconsult pegged your entire value of the space economy– launch rockets, satellite communications and Earth statement– at about $500 billion in 2021. By 2030, Euroconsult says it should reach $860 billion.
If Canada wants a slice, it should need to sharpen its knife, said Ryan Anderson of the Canadian Space Society, a grassroots organization promoting space and space education.
“Canada has lost its step when it comes to market share,” he said. “We’re a victim of our own success.”
While the country’s space economy is sweet at generating promising startups, not enough of them find the wherewithal to grow, said Anderson. That’s the fault of each government and the investment community, he said.
“Canada’s not as ballsy or dangerous as another investment pools,” said Anderson.
“Canada’s beginning to drift behind a bit.”
Greenley said that when the International Space Station was the large game on the town, there have been five space agencies involved. Now, he said, there are 21 countries participating in NASA’s Artemis program to the moon.
WATCH: NASA’s Artemis mission test flight blasts off toward the moon
He quotes the Euroconsult report that concludes Canada’s share of the worldwide space budget is half what it was.
“A variety of countries want in,” he said. “We want to maintain pace with the remainder of the world.”
Countries equivalent to the USA and the UK have a high-level body to make sure the interests of the space economy remain within the forefront. Many within the Canadian industry say this country needs the identical.
“Someone must be bringing the importance of space to senior decision-makers in Ottawa,” Greenley said. “Ultimately, it’s a business environment but government does have a task.”
Christie said the federal government must be rather more consistently interested by space. Canada needs to maneuver beyond funding individual projects and develop an overall plan for the industry.
“The federal government doesn’t invest as much in space industry as they get in return,” he said. “Canadian support for space is well down in the course of the pack.”
In spite of everything, he said, there’s a convention to defend. Canada has been leading the best way in space for many years.
“We must always spend quite a bit more time on a position that’s hard-won.”
-With files from CP’s Bob Weber