On today’s date in 1983—four days into NASA mission STS-7—the first operational use of the Canadarm saw the SPAS-01 (Shuttle Palette Satellite 01) deployed from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger.
Built by Spar Aerospace in Toronto, the Canadarm (or Shuttle Remote Manipulator System) measured 15.2-metres in length and was capable of accurately maneuvering payloads of 30,000 kilograms in the weightlessness of space. Its weight on Earth was 410 kilograms.
Altogether, five Canadarms were built and delivered to NASA in April 1981; January 1983; December 1983; March 1985; and August 1993. One arm was lost in the Challenger accident in 1986.
FIRST CANADIAN SPACEWALK
On April 22, 2001, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield made aerospace history when he became the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk. Using Canadarm, Hadfield installed Canadarm2 on the International Space Station (ISS), which is located about 400 kilometres above the Earth. This next-generation robotic arm was born on the successes of the original Canadarm—the first robotic arm ever built for use in space.
CANADA 150 CANADARM STAMP
Hansen visited Toronto’s Glen Ames Senior Public School to unveil the stamp and meet with Grade 7 and 8 students from the school’s robotics club as they prepared to travel to California to compete in an international robotics competition known organized by the First Lego League. Students competing in the inaugural “Animal Allies” contest were tasked to design, build and program a robot made entirely of Lego to solve a real-world problem. The team came up with the PetPortion, a robot that manages a pet’s weight by automatically giving it the proper amount of food based on its weight and level of daily exercise.
Hansen also addressed the entire school and encouraged the next generation of Canadian innovators to pursue education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
SPACE & ROBOTICS
The Canadarm’s first mission was aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on Nov. 13, 1981. It manoeuvred astronauts, satellites and cargo over 30 years before it retired when the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. The Canadarm launched Canada’s close partnership with NASA on human space flight. Eight Canadian astronauts have flown in space, participating in 16 missions aboard either a space shuttle or on the International Space Station (ISS): Roberta Bondar, Marc Garneau, Chris Hadfield, Steve MacLean, Julie Payette, Robert Thirsk, Bjarni Tryggvason and Dave Williams.
Currently Canada has two active astronauts—Hansen and David Saint-Jacques—although two additional astronauts are expected to be announced this summer.
The Canadarm was instrumental in establishing Canada’s reputation for robotics innovation and led to a new generation of Canadian robotics on the ISS. It will inspire future generations of Canadian scientists and engineers as they develop new technologies that make the world a better place.
For more information about Canada Post’s 10-stamp Canada 150 set, visit canadapost.ca/canada150.