The previous article on the 2012 Federal Budget trounced through the pre-budget hype created by the Opposition parties and the media by demonstrating that the contents of the budget weren’t unexpected, radical, or as bad as assumed.(1) With that out of the way, it’s time to begin to examine some of the real effects the varying cuts will have on different sectors. Transit and transportation have long been a focal point of Through the Eyes of a Pirate, with Space as no exception. Upon the retirement of the NASA shuttle fleet, both a prediction, and a dream revelation were made.(2) It was predicted that the Canadian Space Agency would get cut, and I dared to dream of Canada taking a leadership role in space colonization.
As predicted, the CSA will be taking a large cut as a result of the 2012 Budget. For those unaware, the Conservative Government of Canada had issued a requirement in the fall for all government departments to put forward plans for cuts ranging between 5% – 10% of their operating budgets. They have chosen to implement a full 10% cut, over three years, to the CSA, at the top-end of the snipping spectrum.(3) One could be thankful they weren’t dismantled completely, but the cut does raise a large number of red flags and causes concerns about the long-term future of Canada in Space.
The effects of the $29.5 million cut won’t just be felt in space however. Canada has a large space-industry that has already begun to feel the pain of the shut-down of NASA’s shuttle fleet, as contracts to service Canadarms, or utilize advanced laser-camera technology to inspect for micro-breaches in orbital devices, and dozens of other technologies have come to an abrupt halt.(4) Canada’s advancement and expertise in these areas grows under increased competition from developing countries as they strive to find their own way into space. The funding cut has the long-term implications of allowing these new players to futher encroach, and possibly take control of a field that Canada has excelled in throughout its history in space.
Also of great concern is the fate of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM). RCM is designed to monitor Canada’s arctic, both against incursion and to monitor the Northwest Passage. With the opening of the passage, trade routes between East and West stand to be significantly shortened, and additional monitoring of conditions in the arctic are increasingly necessary. In the long-term, the Northwest Passage provides a wonderful economic instrument for Canada, but only if it can be properly monitored, controlled, and kept safe. The stretch is marked with a great many islands and icebergs, not to mention the extreme weather conditions. RCM is designed to help secure the Northwest Passage and make it a safe route for ships crossing between the Atlantic and the Pacific.(5)
With the fate of RCM now in question, and with the expiry of the old RADARSAT-2 system in 2014, Canada could be surrendering the security and economic benefits of the Northwest Passage. To the concerns above, the cuts also tack on the questions about our commitment to the International Space Station (ISS), and other space-based projects such as the mineral exploration (and profitable exploitation) of the moon. Canada’s 2012 Federal Budget sounds a great warning bell to anyone in Canada interested in a future in space, effectively postponing or destroying the dreams of anyone that dares to think beyond our tiny blue marble.
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