Prime Minister Trudeau announces historic investments in Canada’s space program
Hello everyone, I am really happy to be here at the Canadian Space Agency to share some good news with Canadians. I would like start by thanking the President of the Agency, Sylvain Laporte, for welcoming me. I would also like to welcome Ministers Bains, Duncan and Garneau, who accompanied me here this morning, as well as our Canadian astronauts and members of the Space Advisory Board. Thank you for coming.
Being here today, I cannot help but think of David Saint‑Jacques, who is currently orbiting around our planet. I had the great privilege of speaking to him the day before he left, three months ago, when he was in Kazakhstan. I asked him how he felt, what he thought about his flight and his mission. I told him that everyone was very proud of him. He was like a kid on Christmas Eve – excited, thrilled, enthusiastic. He was already on top of the world. He was getting ready to live out his biggest dream – a dream he’d had since he was a little boy. With his voice full of emotion, he said, “You know, there aren’t many foreign flags flying over the Russian space centre, so I am so proud to see our Maple Leaf here, so far from home. To see a country like ours — which isn’t a world superpower, which doesn’t have a large population — at the forefront of progress. Playing in the big leagues.”
There was a time when David’s story would have been barely imaginable. A time when our ancestors used the stars to find their way through the wilderness, used the sun to tell time, and used the moon to dock their boats. Back then, observation was our best and often only tool for understanding our world and answering our most basic questions. So, in 1839 we built our first observatory on the grounds of the University of Toronto to advance our knowledge of our planet and our universe. We focused on magnetic fields. We wondered why the compass pointed to the North Pole, where the northern lights came from. This curiosity, this sense of adventure that would later drive our work in space was alive in the hearts of those who came before us, alive in the first peoples of Canada who had survived and thrived in the most unforgiving of climates, alive in the Europeans who had crossed the Atlantic to find a better life in a distant land. Indeed, Canada’s entire story is one of perseverance, resilience and audacity, often in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
In 1957, when Sputnik made its first voyage around the Earth, the Soviets were pushing the limits. They showed what a human being can do. Inspired by their success, Canadians got to work. Even though it seemed the race to space was meant for countries much larger than ours. Even though satellites were reserved for countries with a much larger population than ours, Canada did not waste any time. In 1962, just 5 years later, Alouette 1, the first Canadian satellite, was launched, making Canada the first non-superpower in space. Over time, Canadian innovation — and especially our expertise in robotics — became an essential component of space missions.
Each time our friends and allies set out to reach new frontiers, they turned to us. Canada built the communications antenna that helped Alan Shepard become the first American in space. When President Kennedy boldly declared that the United States would land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth, Canada was there. Indeed, Owen Maynard from Woodstock, Ontario was the engineer at NASA responsible for the design of the lunar module that would bring Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Sea of Tranquility on the surface of the moon. And the landing gear of that lunar module was built by Héroux Aerospace just next door to us in Longueuil. We built the Canadarm for the space shuttles. It launched the Hubble space telescope, supported countless space walks and started building the International Space Station, just to name a few things. Frankly, the Canadarm also ensured that the maple leaf is visible in just about every iconic picture of that American space shuttle.
Our work in space is perhaps the best example of Canadian ambition, of this tireless desire to learn and to understand that is so inherent to who we are as a country. It’s no mistake that we decided to focus our space program on research and science. No surprise that we chose physicists and scientists, engineers and educators, doctors and authors to be our astronauts. Their mission was not only to reach the stars, but to bring their knowledge back to Earth, to help us understand the world in which we live and our place in it. Every astronaut, whether it be through their discoveries or their example, inspired generations of Canadians to push the boundaries of what they thought possible of what they held to be true. As our Governor-General likes to say, they showed Canadians that the sky was not in fact the limit.
Nearly 50 years after Apollo 11, space exploration is entering a new phase. After building, operating and continuously occupying the greatest laboratory, the International Space Station, the world is now turning its attention to the Moon. A group of countries led by NASA announced its intention to build a new lunar orbital outpost.
The Lunar Gateway will be one of the most ambitious projects every undertaken by human beings to date. Not only will this moon outpost allow for a long-term lunar presence, but it will also serve as a launch pad to Mars and beyond. Our allies have asked us to join them in reaching this new frontier. They want our help to take on the challenges of deep space exploration. They want us to be their partner on this lunar mission. And so today we are stepping up.
Canada is going to the moon.
Canadarm was essential to the space shuttle. Canadarm2 built the International Space Station. So it’s only fitting and right that the arm that will repair and maintain the Lunar Gateway will yet again be made in Canada by Canadians. And of course the AI and robotics used to control this new Canadarm3 will be developed in Canada by Canadians. And that’s crucially important given the location of the gateway. Where the International Space Station could be operated from the ground at any time, as I just saw a few minutes ago, the distance to the Lunar Gateway will require a level of autonomy never before seen in robotic and human exploration systems. Unlike the ISS, the gateway will not be continuously occupied. Instead, thanks to artificial intelligence and robotics, the gateway will continue to operate when crews are not present and during periods of no communications with Earth.
Canadians are pioneering this technology. We have the talent and the expertise to see it through and now is our time to lead. Our participation in the Lunar Gateway ushers in a new era of Canadian excellence in space, the cornerstone of the next phase of Canada’s space program. To do so, the Government of Canada will invest more than two billion dollars over 24 years in our space program and in the Lunar Gateway.
To do so, the Government of Canada will invest $2.05 billion over 24 years in our space program and the Lunar Gateway. This new space strategy will not just help ensure the future of our astronaut program and the strength of the aerospace industry, but also create jobs for Canadians, encourage innovation and pave the way to new scientific discoveries. Nearly 60 years of Canadian innovation in space have led us here, ready to launch a new mission. Canada has both the expertise and the supply chain needed to participate in the Lunar Gateway.
Our work in space in the past decades has helped our entrepreneurs expand their businesses and create a network of talent and expertise across the country. Our participation in ambitious projects like the International Space Station has helped Canadian businesses become involved in missions led by partners like NASA and the European Space Agency. Our SMEs obtained contracts, expanded their international partnerships and gained access to new technologies.
Today 10,000 Canadian jobs depend on Canada’s presence in space, from the folks right here at CSA who operate Dextre, the “Canada Hand,” to those who built the Earth monitoring satellite RADARSAT constellation mission satellites in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and Richmond, BC. Canada’s participation in the Lunar Gateway will not only ensure that we keep jobs in our communities, but also unlock unprecedented opportunities for our small and medium-sized businesses to grow and thrive.
Of the two 2.05 billion dollars, our government will allocate 150 million over five years to help our SMEs develop and demonstrate space technologies. With the Gateway, we also have the chance to leverage our super clusters, especially as they relate to AI, and ensure that Canada contributes to the next generation of AI-enabled deep space robotic systems. These investments will create hundreds of good, well-paying jobs over the next ten years, from scientists and engineers, to technicians and computer programmers, and will contribute 100 million dollars annually to Canada’s gross domestic product.
Over recent years, as parents, mentors and teachers, we’ve encouraged our young people interested in science and technology to follow their passion and work hard so that they can have a job they love one day. In fact, it’s kind of what I’m doing right now. My daughter Ella-Grace is already, and will admit it, a bit of a science geek like me. So I brought her with me today so she could share in this big news and this exciting element of our future. See, we promised our kids that their dream job is out there, that their hard work will pay off and today we’re making good on that promise.
A strong space program will ensure that Canadians are well positioned to benefit from a rapidly-growing international space economy, an economy that will triple to 1.1 trillion dollars in the next 20 years. This is an unprecedented opportunity for Canada to shine. We expect robotics to be even more critical in the future. From exploring planets to servicing satellites, Canada has what it takes to be at the forefront of this next phase of space technology. That said, impacts of space innovation extend far beyond any single sector of the economy, because had we not participated in space exploration, there is little doubt that Canadians from coast to coast to coast would have missed out on good jobs, better opportunities, and great discoveries -- discoveries that have revolutionized life on Earth whether we realized it or not.
Observing the level of radiation that astronauts were exposed to during spacewalks led to the invention of a radiation detector that is now used in more than 1,000 cancer clinics around the world. Using the Canadarm technology, scientists and engineers developed digital microscopes and robotic arms that revolutionized neurosurgery. We use satellites to monitor our borders, evaluate the impact of climate change, provide high‑speed Internet access in remote areas and carry out rescue operations. With each new adventure in space comes revolutionary discoveries that improve the lives of millions of Canadians. The Lunar Gateway and the next phase of our space program will be no exception.
The investment announced today will create new opportunities for research and innovation in Canada – whether by linking Canadians through high‑speed Internet, by improving access to nutritious foods in remote regions, or by developing medical treatments. These are the challenges that Canadians face every day – and we will continue to study these challenges in space to find solutions.
The maple leaf was flying over the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan that day, because Canadians chose to go to space. We recognized the opportunity before us and believed in our unique ability to seize it. In 1962 we set out to reach a new frontier like we had done so many times before. But Canada made it to space as part of a team, a team of friends and allies who realized that they could achieve more together than they ever could have on their own.
The International Space Station might be the best example of peaceful cooperation among countries. It represents the best of everyone who took part in building it – and demonstrates how much we can accomplish when we work together. The result is nearly 20 years of continuous human presence in space, nearly 20 years of collaboration, innovation and exploration.
My friends, there will always be so much we will never know about our universe. In fact, space exploration has probably generated more questions than we have answered. But that’s not really why humans went to space in the first place. We went because we needed to learn more about ourselves. We tested our theories just as much as we tested our resilience and our determination. And in the process, we discovered how to make life on Earth more comfortable, more efficient, and more fulfilling. We revolutionized the way we co-exist and connect and the ways we keep each other safe.
With the Lunar Gateway, Canada will continue to be part of a team that pushes the boundaries of human ambition and redefines what is possible. A team that will continue to inspire generations of children – and adults – to dream bigger and aspire to even greater heights.