The federal government has signed an agreement with the United States to send a Canadian astronaut around the moon as part of a broader effort to establish a new space station above the lunar surface.
Industry Minister Navdeep Bains unveiled the new Gateway Treaty on Wednesday, which formalizes Canada’s involvement in the U.S.-led effort to build the new station, known as the Lunar Gateway.
The treaty includes a commitment to having a Canadian on board when the U.S. conducts a flyby of the moon in 2023, as well as a second flight, not yet scheduled, to the future station.
“Canada will join the U.S. on the first crewed mission to the moon since the Apollo missions,” Bains said during a news conference with Canadian Space Agency astronauts Jeremy Hansen, David Saint-Jacques, Joshua Kutryk and Jenni Sidey−Gibbons.
“Launching in 2023, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut will be part of Artemis 2, the first mission to carry humans to lunar orbit in over 50 years. This will make Canada only the second country after the U.S. to have an astronaut in deep space.”
The new treaty also formally confirms that Canada will contribute a new robotic arm to help with construction of the Lunar Gateway, which will orbit the moon and allow for exploration of the lunar surface and assist future missions to Mars.
The government last week committed $22.8 million toward development of the new Canadarm3 by MDA Canada.
The Canadian Space Agency is one of several partners in the U.S.-led endeavour along with the European Space Agency and their Japanese counterpart. Russia has also expressed an interest in joining.
Bains did not say how much Canada will spend to participate in the Artemis 2 flight, which will follow an unmanned flyby of the moon that the U.S. has scheduled for next year.
“It’s important to note that we’re a spacefaring nation, and very proud of our space history,” he said. “And this investment with regards to the Artemis 2 program, as well as the overall space strategies is well over $2 billion over the next 24 years.”
The minister went on to defend Ottawa’s planned investment in space, touting the economic and scientific benefits that come from Canada’s involvement in extraterrestrial exploration—a message echoed by some of the astronauts in attendance.