Allons-y! Canadian Space Agency Announces Major Mars Initiative

By SpaceRef Editor
May 25, 2001
Filed under ,

Participants at the 3rd
Canadian Space Exploration Workshop (CSEW)
, being held in
Montreal this weekend, were among the first to hear that Canada wants to go to Mars.

In a pre-banquet speech on Saturday night, former astronaut Dr. Marc Garneau, now
serving as Executive Vice-President for the Canadian Space Agency announced that the
CSA would be expanding its space exploration efforts over the next several years, with
Mars research being a major focus. The announcement came on the 40th anniversary of
President Kennedy’s stirring and oft-quoted call for an American presence on the moon.

“We have the expertise, it’s highly visible, and there is momentum,” Garneau said,
referring to a recent increase in studies on the red planet, as well as an upsurge
in public interest.

Although Garneau was unable to provide exact figures, he did say that the iniative would
come with an increase in funding that would be ‘an order of magnitude’ larger than what
currently exists. For the second day of the workshop attendees were tasked to plan a
mission that would cost approximately $C500 million. He also answered concerns about
current projects by saying that the plan was to preserve them. “This is a ramping up,
not a shift,” he said.

CSEW attendees were given the program’s catch phrase (“Allons-y! Let’s go to Mars”), and
then charged with drawing up a wish list of objectives for a Canadian Mars mission and
interim research. It is too soon to tell what form a mission might take at this point
(ie., oribiter vs. lander), but it is clear that the mission will be by default a
collaborative effort between the CSA and another space organization with launch

Although the question and answer period directly after the announcement revealed some
concern about the risks and costs involved in this bold iniative, most CSEW participants
were enthusiastic about the plan. The move represents an opportunity to raise the public
profile of space sciences in Canada, and develop a more significant Canadian presence
in the international space exploration scene overall.

The objective of the Canadian Space Exploration Workshop is to develop a vision for
Canadian involvement in national and international space exploration missions and to
identify the key technologies required in order to successfully achieve the scientific
goals. Participants include members of the scientific and engineering communities from
academia, industry and government.

SpaceRef staff editor.