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Speaking Points - The Honourable Jim Prentice, PC, QC, MP Minister of Industry: Canadian Space Policy

Status Report From: Canadian Space Agency
Posted: Wednesday, September 3, 2008

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Cambridge, Ontario

September 2, 2008

Check Against Delivery

Thank you for your kind introduction and for this opportunity to talk to you today.

I am joined by my colleague and friend Mr. Gary Goodyear, Member of Parliament for Cambridge and Chair of the Conservative Space Industry Caucus. Gary has been an articulate and, indeed, relentless advocate on your behalf, and also on behalf of the people of Cambridge.

Over a century ago, Sir Charles Roberts, in his poem "In the Wide Awe and Wisdom of the Night," wrote these words:

In the wide awe and wisdom of the night
I saw the round world rolling on its way,
Beyond significance of depth or height,
Beyond the interchange of dark and day.

The great Canadian poet used his imagination to envision the world spinning in space. But in our time, a handful of Canadians have had the privilege of actually looking down to see our planet rolling on its way.

When the first call to recruit Canadian astronauts went out in 1983, over 4000 people applied. Eventually, 19 came to Ottawa for final interviews and medical tests. Six were chosen -- including Marc Garneau (the first Canadian in space) and Roberta Bondar (the first Canadian woman in space). Steve MacLean, Ken Money, Robert Thirsk and Bjarni Tryggvason were also part of that first team.

In 1992, Canada recruited the second team. This time, more than 5000 people applied. Three went on to become astronauts: Chris Hadfield, Dave Williams and Julie Payette.

What set these nine individuals apart? Why were they chosen among nearly 10 000 Canadians who dreamed of a career in space exploration?

In his book, The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe analyzes the qualities of character of the early American astronauts. He wrote, "What was it, I wondered, that makes a man willing to sit up on top of an enormous Roman candle, such as a Redstone, Atlas, Titan, or Saturn rocket, and wait for someone to light the fuse?"

The men that Tom Wolfe studied -- and they were initially, although not subsequently, all men -- tended to be from the military, and most of them had been test pilots. These were the individuals who tended to have "the right stuff."

What about Canada's astronauts? Chris Hadfield was a Canadian Forces jet pilot before becoming an astronaut. But his military background made him the exception in Canada.

The other astronauts came from backgrounds in medicine, science and technology. Several of them were at the top of their professions in more than one field. Canada's astronauts are physicians, like Dave Williams, Bob Thirsk and Roberta Bondar; physicists, like Bjarni Tryggvason and Steve MacLean; and physiologists, like Ken Money. Julie Payette, Bjarni Tryggvason and Bob Thirsk were all engineers.

Many had backgrounds as researchers. In addition to her credentials as a physician, Roberta Bondar had a doctorate in neurobiology. Before he became an astronaut, Ken Money was well-known to the astronaut community as one of the world's foremost authorities on motion sickness in space.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the next phase of the great adventure, our vision is to ensure that Canada stays at the forefront of space exploration and development. At this crossroads, Canada will take the road that leads to a future of scientific and technological excellence. Canada will be among those bold nations that go on to new exploration and new development.

Our vision for Canada's space policy puts the science and technology for space exploration and development at the heart of our industrial strategy. But to do this, we need to accomplish three things in the short term.

First, we needed to revitalize the CSA with new management and new governance.

Second, the CSA requires a President capable of achieving the very ambitious goals of the Agency.

Third, we need to develop a space plan worthy of this great spacefaring nation and its traditions.

All of this needs to be done in a collaborative way. Both industry stakeholders and the Canadian Space Agency need to work together to further develop the concepts outlined in the document entitled "The Way Forward."

I have studied the report "The Way Forward." It is well thought out, well written and well argued. In my view, the recommendations contained therein provide a sound base for our work together with the Canadian industry -- an industry that, in every respect, is our partner in Canada's space plans.

With respect to governance, I want to particularly thank Mr. Cecil Hawkins, who at my request took on the chair of our Advisory Committee on the Canadian Space Agency. Cecil and his committee worked quickly and effectively. They have done so, not for pay, but as $1.00-per-year men and women who care about Canada and are passionate about our role in space. They sought the input from stakeholders across the country, and the response was gratifying. It is clear that there is a strong sense of will to push ahead to new frontiers in space exploration and development in close collaboration with industry.

This is a major innovation in the governance of the CSA.

Most significantly for today's purposes, as part of the revitalization of the governance and management of the CSA, I am very proud today to announce the appointment of the new President of the Canadian Space Agency.

By way of an introduction, I would invite you to watch the following video.

(Video Presentation)

Ladies and gentlemen, Steve MacLean has the right stuff for a Canadian astronaut. He has the right stuff for his new responsibility -- President of the Canadian Space Agency. His knowledge of science, his background in administration and management, his extensive network of contacts in the international industry, and his vision for the future of Canada in space all qualify him for the highest post in an organization he has served so well for so long.

I have given Steve a mandate to make sweeping changes at the CSA. As we stand at this crossroads, he will revitalize the Agency. He will restore its ability to punch above its weight in an international quest. He will develop Canada's capacity for a new era of prestige and achievement.

And to that end, as one of Steve MacLean's first acts as new President, the CSA will begin consultations with stakeholders that will lead to a new Long-Term Space Plan. I expect this plan -- the fourth in the series -- to be as influential for our generation of exploration and development as any plan that Canada has produced for charting our future in space. That's a tall order. I know that Steve is capable of bringing together the stakeholders. Time is of the essence, and I look forward to the plan in the coming months.

Ladies and gentlemen, our course is set for the stars. Canada will remain at the forefront of space exploration and development. We will build on a proud legacy.

I believe Canada is up to that challenge. I am confident we will do it when I see the results of our latest quest for new astronauts. Last May, we announced that we will recruit a new generation of astronauts. By the time the deadline for applications closed in June, we had over 5500 applicants.

These are people who have already been inspired by the achievements of people like Marc Garneau, Roberta Bondar and Steve MacLean. These are people who have grown up in a Canada where we knew that this country was capable of producing individuals who live to experience in the 21st century what a great Canadian poet could imagine in the 19th century.

Canadians are proud of our astronauts. We are proud of our achievements in space. Their legacy will continue to grow. And future generations of Canadians will train their bodies and their minds so that they too, like Steve MacLean and his colleagues in the astronaut program, have the right stuff.

Thank you.

Date Modified: 2008-09-02

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