The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) were the beneficiary of an additional $110 million in funding over the next three years in yesterday's budget but a closer look reveals that some of the new money will actually replenish a decreasing budget.
The new funding comes at a time when the agency was actually taking a cut in its budget from $368.2 million in 2008-2009 to $348.3 million for 2009-2010 and then down to $332.2 million for 2010-2011. And the agency is to cut an additional $9.9 million from it's existing budgets the next 3 years to increase efficiency and effectiveness by collaborating more closely with academia and industry bringing the net gain to $100.1 million. The new money is to be allocated to to support the development of advanced robotics and other space technologies with $20 million earmarked for 2009-2010, $60 million for 2010-2011 and the balance, $30 million for 2011-2012.
New CSA President and former astronaut Steve McLean provided the government with a strategic review of its programs and this lead to yesterday's increase. The CSA is being directed to allocate this money toward the development of terrestrial prototypes for space robotic vehicles such as a Mars or Lunar lander and to further develop other technologies and space robotics.
The new money is more than welcome at the agency as they have for several years been trying to seek increases to do more in strategic areas such as space robotics. In last years government Report on Plans and Priorities, the CSA's Space Science and Exploration program activity had been scheduled to take the brunt of the budget cuts going from $115.4 million in 2008-2009 to $79.6 million in $2010-2011. This represents a 32% reduction in what was classified as the CSA's number to 2 priority program activity. If you replenish the Space Science and Exploration budget to 2008-2009 levels you are then left with a net gain of $64.3 million of the $100.1 million new money the government allocated to the CSA yesterday.
Aside from the fact we are in turbulent economic times the fact that the Conservative government restored and increased finding to the CSA could also in part be due to the efforts of the CSA over the last several years to project a clear path forward. A path that includes Canada as a player in select niche industries for which Canada has shown a competency for, including robotics.
Also of note, with respect to the future budgets at the CSA was an interesting answer by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff on Sunday's One on One with Peter Mansbridge. Towards the end of the interview and when responding on a question about the economy and who Ignatieff seeks input from he mentioned former CSA President and astronaut Marc Garneau as one such person, one of three he mentioned. Mr. Garneau is now an MP for the Liberals and could be a rising member of Mr. Ignatieff's opposition Liberals. Should the Liberals come to power in the next election the thought of Mr. Garneau in a position that could help the CSA is tantalizing.
The next Canadian Space Agency Reports on Plans and Priorities 2009-2010 estimates is expected out on March 26.