O Canada!

November 13, 2012 • 12:28 pm

If you did any Googling today, you might have noticed this, and wondered what it was:

It’s the Canadarm! And Canada’s National Post explains:

The 31rst anniversary of the first launch of the Canadarm, the nation’s robotic space exploration tool, is being celebrated with a Google doodle.

The Canadarm had its first mission on Nov. 13, 1981 on the U.S. space shuttle Columbia. The dexterous robotic arm was used to move and retrieve satellites and provide support for astronauts during spacewalks, among other tasks. Although Canada does not have a space program of its own, the Canadarm is the country’s most visible and famous contribution to the U.S. and international space effort. . .

While the Canadarm’s final mission was shuttle Endeavour in June, the more advanced Canadarm2 has a permanent place on the International Space Station.

The Canadarm has a unique place of pride in the Canadian psyche and is often a point of pride spoken of when referring to the nation’s technological prowess. The U.S. radio program This American Life listed the Canadarm as one of the facts about Canada and Canadians interacting with the United States that every Canadian knows about (and can quote instantly), but that most Americans are clueless about. (The other facts mostly centred around which cast members of 90210 were Canadian, which was true when the TAL episode aired in the late 90s and is still true now.)

Well, I know about Banting and Best, and lots of great Canadian actors, Gordon Lightfoot, Shania Twain, and Tim Horton’s donuts (now sadly debased), but this was new to me.  The Canadarm is versatile; it can move payloads, inspect spacecraft damage, repair satellites, and generally look at stuff.

Here’s a video of the Arm in Action:

A mechanical handshake to our neighbors to the north!

h/t: Veronica

28 thoughts on “O Canada!

      1. So…Scottish engineers are really Canadian lumberjacks? Is that okay?

        This might be too much information. She canna’ take much more o’ this, cap’n!


        1. There are occasional moves made to put up a statue to “Scotty” in his “native” Torry. But whenever it’s suggested, the idea is countered with the near inevitability of it being kidnapped (stat-napped?) for Student Charity Week, and the short half-life it would have before being stolen and melted down. OK, it it were made of granite, I suppose it might survive melting attempts. But the seagulls would still get it. Thoroughly.
          Real Aberdonians struggle to understand “Scotty’s” accent. “Accent with a trace of English”, to cite an old joke.

            1. I have a “tin ear” for accents and music but even I can tell there is something wrong with “Scotty” : he’s more-or-less comprehensible without struggling and 30 seconds of working out what that last sentence was. (Which is not helped by peoples propensity to not talk in sentences.) That’s not Aberdonian! (Or Weegie!)

  1. Just a small correction: Canada does have it’s own space program lead by the Canadian Space Agency since the late 1980’s, although we didn’t have one in 1981 with the Canadarm launch.

    Canada was actually the third nation in space and is among world leaders as far as satellites, space robotics, machine vision, and space drilling/mining technology. The ISS even has two Canadian robotic arms and was assembled using the Canadian Space Vision System. After the Columbia tragedy in 2003 all shuttles also a Canadian 3D inspection sensor on the end of a Canadian boom for inspecting them for damage in space. We also have an astronaut team. (Canada’s first person in space is now a Member of Parliament and many are hoping he’ll run for leader which could lead him tp be Prime Minister, though a long shot now.)

    What Canada doesn’t have is our own launch capability or independent exploration program so we typically use the U.S., Russia, and ESA.

    Source: Me. I’ve worked in the industry and with a NASA prime contractor for 13 years.

    1. Chad English

      Thank you for mentioning “Canada’s first person in space [who] is now a Member of Parliament” Marc Garneau

      In fact it was Garneau’s Tweet that alerted me to the Doodle:

      Marc Garneau ‏@MarcGarneau

      “Today is the 31st anniversary of the first launch of the Canadarm. Worked like a charm on every single mission over 30 years. Go Canada!”

      En francais également.

    2. and while we’re on the subject; Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield will become the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station next month.

  2. I notice that American media usually refer to this thing as the “Remote Manipulator System”, while Canadian media (or at least, the CBC) invariably call it the “Canadarm”.

    As for entertainers: there’s a 1985 HBO/CBC mockumentary “The Canadian Conspiracy” about Canadian plans to take over the US by infiltrating Hollywood. The leader of the plot is (the now-late) Lorne Greene.

  3. Chad English –

    Although I live in NYC, Chad’s statement is yet another reason I am so proud of my country’s modesty and will never convert!

  4. Ok. I’m pretty sure that’s James Bay, Hudson’s Bay and Ungava Bay so it’s a south-up view of Canada.

    Then what’s that tail sticking out on the right? A spherically distorted Alaska?

    Yes there’s artistic licence involved here. I’m pretty sure the view from the ISS is too low to see Quebec and the Pacific Ocean at the same time.

  5. Rick Mercer, a Canadian comedian, pointed out that Canadian’s proudly refer to it as the Canadarm, while the American media refer to it as the Robot Arm.

  6. Sure;y Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen were Canada’s two finest products. The greatest historical figure to come from Canada – Captain Kirk.

  7. Sir Sandford Fleming is my nominee for the greatest Canadian, due to his innovation of the standard time zone scheme used around the world today.

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