Canada commits to NASA’s Lunar Gateway boondoggle


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Canada’s leftwing government has agreed to be NASA’s first official international partner in the agency’s Lunar Gateway project, designed to go nowhere and cost billions.

Canada has become the first nation to formally commit to NASA’s lunar Gateway project with a financial contribution to cover a 24-year period and the development of a new generation robotic Canadarm.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement Wednesday that Canada would be partnering with NASA and spending 2 billion Canadian dollars ($1.4 billion) over 24 years on the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway program, a human-tended facility in orbit around the moon, as well as other space programs. The announcement included funding of 150 million Canadian dollars over five years for a new Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program to help small and medium-sized businesses develop new technologies to be used and tested in lunar orbit and on the moon’s surface in fields that include artificial intelligence, robotics and health.

Canada will develop and contribute a smart robotic system – Canadarm3 – that will repair and maintain the Gateway, Trudeau announced.

I wonder if this Canadian program will survive a new rightwing administration. Such boondoggles often don’t, or get reshaped into something completely different.

Of course, this question assumes a truly rightwing government might someday retake power in Canada.

We are now entering a new cold war. This time the battle lines are not between the capitalist west and a communist Soviet bloc, but between the socialist big governments across the globe and the capitalist free citizenry struggling to survive independently under the thumb of those increasingly oppressive governments.

We can see this clearly in space. While big government space agencies in the U.S., Europe, Russia, and Canada are teaming up to get coerced government funding for Gateway (even as they work to simultaneously squelch any competing space exploration visions), private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and the new smallsat companies strive to launch their own private endeavors, using profits and any available investment capital they can convince others to freely provide them.

The big government space programs will spend a lot of money taken involuntarily, wield power to maintain their dominance, and likely accomplish relatively little for all that power and money. The small private efforts, if allowed to do what they want to do, will spend comparatively little capital (voluntarily committed to them), work very efficiently, and likely get a lot more done. The key is whether the former will allow the latter the freedom to operate.

Sadly, the track records of powerful government throughout the history of the world leaves me very pessimistic about this coming cold war. Those governments will quite likely use its growing unchecked power to squelch any competition, especially competition that makes them look foolish.

We have already seen this happen somewhat at NASA with its commercial crew program. Unless the public starts voting for politicians that favor them over the government — something that public simply hasn’t done for more than a century — I can only see this government dominance grow and worsen.

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8 comments

  • Richard M

    “the agency’s Lunar Gateway project, designed to go nowhere and cost billions.”

    And I am *completely* confident that the Gateway will succeed brilliantly in executing its design.

  • Col Beausabre

    Bob, What you don’t mention is what a huge victory this is for big space. You want to cancel Gateway ? We have a treaty with Canada ! (yes, the agreement is government to government so it will take the form of a treaty). Look at all the money the Canadians have spent ! Historical example: When the British had second thoughts about the Concorde, that there was a treaty with France was a major reason Britain stayed in the partnership. The champagne corks were popping at NASA and Big Space – this means they have an insurance policy to funding for at least a generation (tell me this won’t eat NASA’s budget alive). And remember Cheops Law – All government projects come in behind schedule and over budget.

    Why do we need SLS/Orion ? To get to FLOP-G/Gateway. Why do we need FLOPG/Gateway ? To have a place to send SLS/Orion to.

    It’s like being the straight man to Ayn Rand

  • Phill O

    The left in Canada is repaying the left in the USA for helping them to power. You want to talk about meddling in other countries elections.

    Conservative of North America unite!

  • wodun

    We have already seen this happen somewhat at NASA with its commercial crew program.

    Also with the new launcher development program.

  • Edward

    Richard M wrote: “And I am *completely* confident that the Gateway will succeed brilliantly in executing its design.

    I’m sure it will, too. It is unfortunate that it is not designed as a major improvement over NASA’s other high-cost, low return-on-investment manned ventures.

    The good news is that NASA seems to expect, in the next decade, to retire the expensive ISS in favor of commercial low Earth orbit space stations (e.g. Axiom, Bigelow, Ixion). This should result in lower-cost, high return-on-investment manned ventures, making ((F)LOP) Gateway (To Nowhere) seem like an expensive design.

    Part of Gateway’s intended purpose is to act as a refueling station on the way to the Moon and elsewhere, but so far NASA has not started an effort to encourage mining propellant (water) from the nearby Moon. This part of Gateway’s design is not yet being implemented and is too early for practical use. Once there is more traffic expected and propellant mined from the Moon, then this part of Gateway might become popular, but for now it is analogous to building an out of the way gas station, with dry tanks, near a road that expects only the occasional car.

    At least Canada gets to update its arm again, but — again — without advancing into other more lucrative areas of manned space exploration. Canada can and should do more than just an arm.

  • David M. Cook

    Didn‘t Canada sell the arm company to an American corporation? What will they do, create another company only to sell it later?

  • Judy

    If they sold the arm company, I hope they charged a leg for it! :)

  • pzatchok

    Seriously? Just an arm?

    What for? We still have old ones. Just copy them.

    Don’t we need heavier construction equipment up there to build big things?

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