View Full Version : Canadian 2009 MSL Contributions

2003-Jul-25, 04:59 PM
This post is in response to Philip's last post of June 20 (I believe) - a response to the welcome to robotic exploration thread regarding the Mars Society of Canada's (MSC) Petition to save the Canadian MSL instruments.

I actually deferred to the creator of the petition (Carmen - MSC Toronto) to shed light on the concern that the text of the petition was in error and the government did not renege on the support of the mission contributions. The following is his reponse:

The Canadian space science community and industry has been gearing up for Mars missions for some years now - and in particular since Marc Garneau announced this goal of the CSA in 2001 at the Canadian Space Exploration Workshop. Our expertise is known by other nations, and NASA was expecting our participation in MSL for 2009. It is the government that pointedly ignored this ferment in the country. As for a particular government decision, it was probably strictly budgetary - they probably think that the CSA's new "stable funding" (at $300 million since 1999) is enough, since it is more than they have been accustomed to. What the decision-makers are not considering is Canada now has the beginnings of, or indeed perhaps a maturing, indigenous space industry and research cadre. A space industry that is very nearly without a space program (sounds familiar? This has the makings of the loss of another generation). The government is not reacting to a "new" reality in the country (although in fact it has been developing for years). Canada's space achievements and the quality of our science are not sufficiently well known to the government, let alone the public - and so this kind of oversight can occur.

As for the Canadian subscribers of Universe Today - direct participation by any Canadians reading this is more necessary than they may imagine. The efforts of just a few individuals began this campaign, but the word is spreading and we are beginning to tap into the Canadian zeitgeist - so simply telling people and obtaining even a few signatures is essential! Petitions have been effective before in our nation's history, and besides - people simply need to know! That is all it takes, sometimes.

As far as what is needed to remedy the situation: Allowance for $250 Million in the next federal budget (over the time leading up to the launch). The alternative would be to cut CSA programming already in place, that simply cannot afford to be cut (and I am sure that Canadians on the whole do not want to see it cut). If it is true that the government is unaware of the support that the CSA has in this country (albeit usually not vocal enough) - then a petition campaign is the most effective way to show them that that support exists.

There is a wealth of budgetary, science, and structural information about the Canadian space program at The Future, Space and Travel Website (FST) (http://www.spaceref.com/redirect.ref?url=denislegacey.com&id=2966).

philip slater
2003-Jul-27, 12:05 AM
smallfri - thanks for getting the facts straightened out.

My basic perception and concerns (over on “Welcome to Robotic Space Exploration”) still remain that not only are Canadian administrators in danger of missing a great opportunity, but also that the Canadian space community, professionals or amateurs, have not fully grasped the potential downside resulting from not ensuring that the petition to save the Canadian MSL instruments is a real success.

Is there anything that people in other countries can do to help? The only thing I can think of at the moment is to press on with a list/chart we are trying to develop which ranks the top fifty countries on the planet for contribution to the development of space exploration relative to the size of its population, economy and the history and track-record of each country's science and technology base.

This should give your political folk something to be really proud about, as I suspect Canada will come out as near to the top of the list as Britain would currently come to filling a slot at the other end of the chart.


2003-Jul-27, 12:17 AM
I suspect the main thing that people in other countries can do is contact their Canadian friends and demand that they sign the petition.

My concern is whether a petition will actually convince our government to rethink its position on funding the mission. What would it actually take to get them to fund it?

philip slater
2003-Jul-27, 12:42 PM

My concern is whether a petition will actually convince our government to rethink its position on funding the mission.
That must be almost as valid a concern in Canada as it would be in similar circumstances in the UK.

My main concern is focused on defending against the consequences of a failure to successfully deliver the petition on time and on spec.

Canada probably has at least its fair share of people who would like to see their country get out of any involvement in the development of space technology. Their motivations could well be of as wide a variety as elsewhere, usually centred around wanting to divert governmental budgets to some pet purpose of their own. Together these types can make up a very effective anti-space lobby, and an attempt to get together a petition which then failed to get more than a few names on it would be no big deal, but it would bring smiles to the faces of a sample of people who its no fun to watch getting too pleased with themselves.

Now that this battle has been joined, the best solution seems to be to win it as soon and as convincingly as possible, unless somehow a quick retreat can be successfully contrived.
What would it actually take to get them to fund it?

I don't know.

But how about taking that question as being a Brief to Fraser's Forums' Creative Solutions Department?

2003-Jul-27, 03:15 PM
I actually wrote an email to the Canadian Space Agency asking them for some suggestions on what we can do to help. Hopefully that will clear things up.

philip slater
2003-Jul-30, 11:21 PM
I took the question in the quote above -

What would it actually take to get them to fund it?

and ran it past a small and fast creative team and got back the following:

Help them understand its in their own interest to do so.

To do the job properly it would be necessary to know a bit more about the decision-makers involved. Is it safe to assume that they are mainly elected folk (willing to heed petitions with re-election in mind) or mainly bureaucrats with dreams of retirement and aware of the need to protect pension rights by playing it safe and boring?

If a status-rich economist could be found to put some relevant (and true) statistics together and the decision-makers really do have a commitment to maintaining the competitiveness of the Canadian economy they should at least listen. Sometime someone somewhere has said that if the US of A were looked on as a business it could be shown that it had made a direct profit of five times the investment on the Apollo programme, not counting spin-off benefits.

How can anyone make a calculation like that? How could they then relate it to the Canadian instrumentation for the MSL mission? Does anyone know an economist?


2003-Jul-31, 03:10 PM
Hi gentlemen;

I have someone looking at the "economist" angle. For now, what I can tell you is that the aerospace industry in Canada is a $20 Billion dollar industry, with the actual space sector making up ~$1.4 Million or 7% of that total.

Canada receives about 25% of R&D funding for this sector from the government, the US gets ~66% and the European Union ~50% from the government.

It would cost 1.32$ per Canadian per year to get this off of the ground. And from what Marc Garneau and other people I have talked to have said - the best thing to do is show our politicians that Canadians want this. Ie: letters to MPs (there is a pre-made form letter on our website, www.marssociety.ca), and the petition.

Thanks for your input:)


2003-Jul-31, 10:27 PM
Hi all - again quote from Carmen on the "economist angle":

"The economic question is a key one, and indeed demands resources to research as comprehensively as suggested. Ultimately, it is industry that must answer the question. However, what we are regarding is not a NASA-like situation: a huge program with a legendary heritage, complete with deliberate government decisions to influence the economy thereby. We are looking at the beginning of a true space program, not the aftermath, when one argues about the economic benefits. In high technology, one seizes the leads established at home, because intense competition internationally quickly nullifies them. The Canadian Space Agency is designed (and mandated, and on rare occasions funded) to succeed in niches. It may be, however, that Canadian talents have become too great for their "niche". Maintaining Canadian competitiveness in three "niches" are *precisely* the stakes.

* Robot arms, the "Swiss army knife" of space robotics, are of course famed Canadian products. Yet space robot arms have been built by the Europeans, Japanese, and Americans, for potential use on probes. Why? Because this "niche" is too important to leave to the Canadians. Canada (or SPAR Aerospace, in many ways) established a lead early (in the mid-1970s!) and never relinquished it - or, at least, has not as yet. A "sample handling apparatus" designed to work for one Earth year on the surface of Mars would be a significant challenge even to the Canadian engineers already knowledgeable - but the government does not seem to be heeding the threat to our lead.

* Sudbury, Ontario, a mining town inside an impact crater on the Canadian Shield, has the world's largest concentration of technological mining expertise. Yet, most of that expertise is foreign-owned and directed. The "Canadrill", designed by NORCAT, has already been constructed and is already producing terrestrial spin-off technologies (six years before it was supposed to fly!). It is the only drill submitted for MSL consideration that is capable of drilling through basalt. Technologies like these, again, are too useful to leave to the Canadians - as with SPAR's "STEM" antenna technology, expect attempts to buy this technology for manufacture in the US through licensing, again leaving Canadian industry out of its own loop.

* LIDAR (laser radar) is a maturing technology with multiple applications - remote sensing of atmosphere, bathmetry, and more, from the the surface, the air, and from space. Canadian LIDAR technology is already in use by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and JPL purchased a Canadian LIDAR prototype for a comet probe. Canada's market share in LIDAR is commanding.

Are these "niches", in need of corporate handouts, or are they actually nascent (even mature) industries? Are we attempting to defend Canadian participation in a Mars mission simply so that we can see a maple leaf on Mars? Or are we attempting to benefit from our own work, to capitalize on it so that we can contribute more domestically and internationally in the future? Perhaps, were these industries properly supported, might they cease to be "niches" - and perhaps then the decision-makers would not see this through the prism of "funding the space boys while the media is howling for medicare".

2003-Jul-31, 11:11 PM
It's a strange challenge. Canadians need to feel pride, and maybe even competitiveness about space exploration - sort of the way we feel about peace keeping, or health care. These things are sources of Canadian pride often because of past successes. We're proud of the Canadarm, and happy to get behind more "space arms".

So, space exploration needs to be seen as the thing Canadians do best; maybe better than anyone else in the world. We have the technical expertise, education, and think a general willingness, but not the political will to back it up.

Success breeds success. Maybe if the Canadian Arrow wins the X-Prize, it'll help build enthusiasm for Canadian space exploration.

philip slater
2003-Aug-02, 10:39 PM
Thanks again smallfri for posting the crucial economic information and analysis. I now feel a bit more confident that I might have some idea of what the Canadian Space Agency is doing, why it is doing it, to whom it is accountable, whose interests it serves and what are its agenda and overall purpose. Which is more than I can say with respect to some other space agencies such as for example that of China, or for that matter the ESA.

Everyone with an interest in the engineering, mission inception and management of space flights, whether robotic or human missions, needs to have some awareness of these big-picture issues. Particularly when things go wrong, such as when obvious opportunities with potentially highly beneficial outcomes like MSL are cancelled or put at risk, or accidents and fatal mishaps occur.

In these severe failure situations it is always useful for investigators to examine closely the design of interface areas, such as those between politics, finance, bureaucracy and engineering and the laws of physics. (Which is why it was good that Richard Feynman was around for Challenger.)

Getting elected politicians to think long term has never been easy, and space needs time. Keep on trucking, Voyager 1. And keep on pushing the petition, everyone in Canada.

philip slater
2003-Aug-06, 11:37 PM
I notice that the first week of August is nearly gone and so I start wondering how the MSL petition is coming along. Growing fast, I hope.

fraser has made the observation that:

It's a strange challenge. Canadians need to feel pride, and maybe even competitiveness about space exploration - sort of the way we feel about peace keeping, or health care...

So, space exploration needs to be seen as the thing Canadians do best; maybe better than anyone else in the world. We have the technical expertise, education, and think a general willingness, but not the political will to back it up.

Success breeds success.

Success breeds success. Do Canadians know just how successful their country is in space science, exploration and technology, compared to some other countries? I think it is right and proper to make comparisons, if done fairly and for the purpose of the general good. Here is a project, still very much at the developmental stage, which should help to enable Canadians to understand their current world standing in this field of endeavour:


This will hopefully lead to a quantifiable and clearly defined aim for each country - the achievement of an appropriate and affordable level of contribution each year to the worldwide development of spacefaring capability for planet Earth.

For the moment the best ranking system that can be developed in the short term is a very rough guide which can be initially put together by a self-assessment questionnaire: "Do you think that in terms of contribution towards the world's current level of space flight capability your country ranks in the top five or ten countries or the top twenty, thirty, forty or fifty (relative to your nation's relevant resources)?"

Eventually it may be possible to develop an Assessment Equation, such as:

Level of achievement in space (as proportion of total planetary effort)
Divided by:
GDP times historical length and quality of national technological base times population.
By 2005, 6 or 7 THE NATIONAL CONTRIBUTION TO WORLD SPACE FLIGHT RATING AND AWARD FOUNDATION may be holding an award ceremony every year with Canada as usual in one of the top two places when someone suddenly realises that someone else forgot to vote the funding for the instrumentation for the MSL.

Canadian voters and taxpayers, don't let it happen.

Just coerce your friends and acquaintances into signing the petition - now.


philip slater
2003-Aug-14, 01:32 AM
Hi Fraser,

Any response yet from CSA about your email (mentioned 27th July, above) asking how people could help with getting a positive decision on funding commitment for Canadian instrumentation for MSL 2009?

I actually wrote an email to the Canadian Space Agency asking them for some suggestions on what we can do to help. Hopefully that will clear things up.

There is not a lot of time left in August for UT Forums folk to help to give a boost to the Mars Society's petition.


2003-Aug-14, 02:51 AM
I did hear back from them and I should have realized what their answer would be. As a government agency, it's not their place to question the judgement of the government. To have agencies lobby the general public to overturn decisions they don't like would undermine the whole process of government.

So, the CSA had no comment.

I gave the Mars Society a good idea though. They could set up telescopes around the country and encourage the general public to take a look at the Red Planet. These people would be great targets to sign a paper petition to send along to the Canadian government. If their goal is 10000 signatures, then set up a few dozen telescopes at strategic locations for a couple of days around August 27th. It would be cake to get all the signatures you wanted.

The only question is; however, will a petition make a difference to government funding for Mars exploration?

I've offered to help the Mars Society to organize this, as it fits in with the general Mars 2003 event list I'm organizing, but I'm still waiting to hear what they'd like me to do.

philip slater
2003-Aug-22, 10:27 PM
Hi Fraser.

I can understand that the rules of the game mean that CSA can make no comment, but I still think its good that you let them know that there is public support for them in Canada if they wish to press your government for a thaw in what I believe is a budget freeze delicately described as ‘stable funding’.

Most government departments and agencies are not averse to a little light campaigning for a budget more appropriate to the mission with which they are tasked. Maybe a few more enquiries as to how they are getting on with getting the money to do the job might sustain and encourage their efforts.

I too have experienced a lack of response from the Mars Society and wonder if there is some communication glitch or maybe just work overload. Even when you have had sixty thousand years preparing for an event there is always a last minute rush to get ready. And we don't really remember too much about last time it happened as our ancestors didn't pay as much attention as the other human species Homo Neanderthalis did at the time, and not many of their accounts got handed down to us for some reason.

Shame that your idea of 'See Mars and Sign the Petition' events couldn't be actioned at what was rather short notice.

Possibly the only contribution to the general effort that UT forums might make would be to ask all event organisers in Canada to download the petition and have it available for signatures.

Or maybe its possible to put a reminder and a link toCanadian Citizen Petition (http://astro.senecac.on.ca/~peter.robbinson/phpetition/) to help Save Canadian Mars Exploration at the Canadian section of the world events list - " While you’re watching Mars, think about getting some Canadian Science done there in 2009" or something.

Or for UT Forum attendees to take a copy with them.

Or something.

I hope the Canadian government appreciates the fact that I want to hold up their space exploration record as a shining example to make the British government ashamed of how little it does to shoulder its share of the world effort to get us all out and about around the solar system in an enjoyable, timely, economically beneficial and life enhancing manner.

If Canadians allow their opportunity to play a key role in the Mars Science Lab project to be squelched the British government will be able to say "what are you talking about, their government is just as useless as we are and has just as little understanding of the need to be involved in building the technology basis of the future of the national economy". I hope that someone in the Canadian independent space sector can think of a way of getting your government to listen and keeping it usefully involved.


2003-Sep-03, 11:26 PM
I am just wondering if anything happened with the Mars events in Canada?

I know that the Calgary Science Centre did NOT have a petition available, and the people I spoke to at the veiwing on Aug 28th had no knowledge of a petition, nor even any real knowledge of the impending budget.

I would really like to see the ranking system Phillip is talking about. In talking to several people I know (yes an admittedly small sample!) less than 10% knew we had done anything more than the Canadarm, and most did not realize that it is really only known by this name here in Canada.

None of them knew about the issue of the MSL, and in fact only 2 of the 10 or so people I questioned were even aware of the substancial investments made in the aerospace industry in Canada.

Trust me when I say they know now!

Hindsight, but I wish I had printed the petition and taken it with me when I went down for a look.

Regardless, it seems to me that Canada, and the Canadian government in particular, has done little to advertise our achievements to date and even less to promote the ongoing projects we are involved in. :(

2003-Sep-24, 10:57 PM
Old thread, I know ... but I would suggest that everyone merely take a bit of time to write their local politician.

I wrote both of my politicians (provincial and federal). It took me about an hour to write two hand-written notes. (I wrote about more than the space program ... I included medical research support too).

Apparently, they take hand-written notes (especially from educated and employed people) a lot more seriously than an email or a form letter.

C'mon people. Make an actual contribution!