It’s an exciting time for Canada in space.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is en route to the asteroid Bennu, carrying the Canadian laser altimeter instrument. Next year, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques will begin a six-month mission on the International Space Station. And a 2018 launch is planned for the ambitious James Webb Space Telescope, a collaborative mission between the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, NASA, and others.
It’s also an exciting time for Canadian space advocacy.
The federal government established a new Space Advisory Board this year to consult with various stakeholders and guide the nation’s space program. The government also sought public input on their Innovation Agenda and budgetary priorities, with widespread input from the space sector. And last year the Canadian space community came together in Ottawa for the first Canadian Space Policy Symposium, where representatives from academia, industry and the nonprofit sector shared ideas, challenges, and perspectives on Canadian space policy.
In all of these initiatives, The Planetary Society has had a seat at the table.
Throughout the Society’s history we have had a large number of members and supporters in Canada, and over the past few years we have deepened our involvement here. Through outreach, presentations, conversations and partnerships, The Planetary Society has established itself as an active member of the Canadian space community.
As our presence in Canada continues to grow, we are proud to share with our Canadian members the opportunity to engage in and support outreach and advocacy work here at home.
For the time being, our advocacy efforts in Canada focus on where we see the greatest need, and this is the Canadian Space Agency’s lack of an Education and Public Outreach (EPO) program. “Inspiring Canadians” is one of the central pillars of the Canadian Space Policy Framework, and yet the Agency’s EPO department was eliminated in 2012 and has never been restored.
When the government’s Space Advisory Board invited The Planetary Society to participate in a roundtable discussion of the future of Canada’s space program, our message focused on advocating for a renewed national effort to educate and inspire Canadians of all ages about space. This is the first step toward having a public that is supportive of space exploration spending, and will shape the next generation of explorers.
And we practice what we preach; The Planetary Society supports volunteers who conduct educational outreach activities across Canada. We have outreach coordinators in Victoria, Vancouver, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Waterloo and Montreal, who share space exploration with their communities. And we are always looking to engage with other talented volunteers across the country. We are also working to expand our outreach activities through collaborative partnerships with the amazing educational organizations that are active in Canada.
As Canada’s space program evolves, so too will our advocacy initiatives. We will seek opportunities to engage our members in Canada like we do in the United States, empowering you to shape space policy. In the meantime, I invite any Canadian who wants to get more involved to contact me at [email protected].
Together, The Planetary Society can enact real change in Canada, and help further the exploration of the cosmos.