Canadian boots may have yet to tread upon the moon, but if everything goes according to plan, four Ottawa-made wheels could touch upon lunar soil within the decade.
As the Ottawa Citizen reports, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency rolled out Artemis Jr., their brand new Canadian-built lunar rover, to U.S. media this week. A similar Canadian preview is scheduled for the fall.
The vehicle is designed to seek out water and dig up hydrogen-and-oxygen rich soil along the satellite's north and south poles. After extracting the hydrogen and oxygen from the soil, astronauts should be able to make their own water.
Because it's remote-control operated, Artemis Jr. can be sent to the moon on its own. Depending on how well it navigates those lunar craters, the rover could also be developed for journeys to Mars.
But first, NASA will send the prototype to a much friendlier environment. Artemis Jr. has been booked for a Hawaiian vacation, where engineers will send it halfway up a volcano to see how well it does in rocky, moon-like conditions.
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Ottawa's Neptec Design Group served as primary contractors in a multi-group project that saw collaboration with two other Ontario-based companies.
If Artemis Jr. succeeds, it will be the latest achievement in a long list of Canadian contributions in space.
On June 22, 1960, the first Canadian hardware — in the form of a cosmic receiver — exited the stratosphere aboard U.S. navigation satellite, Transit 2A.
Canadarm — the mechanical arm used to move important cargo around the Space Shuttle — has been assisting with astronaut payload for over three decades. More recently, Canadarm has been in the news for its role in the upcoming SpaceX "Dragon" capsule launch.
And who can forget the flesh-and-blood Canucks who have sailed amongst the stars.
In 1960, Quebec's Marc Garneau became the first Canadian passport-holder to orbit the Earth aboard the Challenger, while Steve MacLean, Julie Payette, Dave Williams, Roberta Bondar, Chris Hadfield, Robert Thirsk and Bjarni Tryggvason round out Canada's eight space greats.
Cirque du Soleil's Guy La Liberte paid $35 million US for the privilege of being the country's first space tourist, while Hadfield will be the first Canadian to man the International Space Station when he joins the Soyuz capsule liftoff in December.
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