Canadian space robots honoured on new $5 bill

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.
The new Canadian $5 bill was unveiled today, and even astronaut Chris Hadfield, currently in command of the International Space Station, got involved in the event.

[ Related: Bank of Canada gets help from above in unveiling new bank notes ]

It wasn't just Chris Hadfield's popularity that had him taking part, though. The new bill features images of the Canadian Space Agency's two space robots, the Canadarm2 and Dextre.

The new polymer $5 and $10 bank notes are displayed during a press conference.
The Canadarm2 is the successor to the original Canadarm that accompanied so many space shuttle missions into orbit. This 17-metre long robot has been in orbit since 2001. It helped to assemble the International Space Station, and has remained attached to the station, helping in station operations, spacewalks, and in docking and undocking spacecraft that visit the station. Unlike the Canadarm, which was attached to one spot on the space shuttles for its missions, the Canadarm2 can 'walk', end over end, to any location on the station that has a power/computer linkup.

Dextre is a bit like the R2-D2 to the Canadarm2's C-3P0. The CSA page calls it "a space handyman", and its claim to fame is that it's "the most sophisticated space robot ever built." Dextre's job is to keep the station repaired, replace batteries and cameras, and basically keep everything on the exterior of the station in good working order. It can operate independently, from any of the power/computer linkups on the station, or (as the new $5 bill shows) it can join up with the Canadarm2 to gain access to parts of the station it couldn't reach on its own, or to work on docked spacecraft. The CSA has even been running tests with Dextre to see if it can successfully repair and refuel satellites in orbit.

[ More Geekquinox: Herschel Space Observatory shuts down forever ]

The new $5 bill is due to be available starting in November. I won't make any judgments about other aspects of the bill, but I certainly appreciate that it's honouring Canadian contributions to human space exploration and Canadian technological innovation.

(Images courtesy: Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press and Bank of Canada)

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