Thirty-six years after its unveiling, the Canadarm remains one of our country’s premier technological achievements, notable enough to warrant a place in Canada Post’s Canada 150 series.
The latest stamp in the crown corporation’s maple leaf-shaped series, the third in a set of 10 aimed at capturing what Canada Post calls “unforgettable moments” from the past 50 years of Canadian history, was unveiled on April 28 by Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen and Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra at Toronto’s Glen Ames Senior Public School.
In a May 4 post on its website, Canada Post called the Canadarm, a series of robotic cranes that were used by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s space shuttle fleet to capture, maneuver, and deploy cargo, “arguably Canada’s most famous robotic accomplishment.”
While the first Canadarm wasn’t delivered to NASA until 1981, its development stretched back to 1969, when NASA first invited Canada to participate in its shuttle program, showing particular interest in a robot developed by the now-defunct Toronto-based firm DSMA Atcon that was designed to load fuel into nuclear reactors.
According to Canada Post, the first Canadarm prototype was built in 1974 through a collaboration between DSMA Atcon, CAE Inc., and the now-defunct Spar Aerospace, which according to U of A Engineer Magazine (as cited on Wikipedia) was ultimately awarded the Canadarm contract by the NRC.
The Canadian government also contributed, by investing $108 million to design, build, and test the prototype.
In 1975, NASA and the NRC signed a memorandum of understanding stating that Canadians would develop and construct remote manipulator systems for the agency’s space shuttles.
Though it was retired when NASA’s shuttle program ended in 2011, the Canadarm remains a potent symbol Canada’s international reputation for robotics innovation.
The next stamp in Canada Post’s Canada 150 set will be revealed in Toronto on May 9, with the others scheduled to be unveiled at other cities across the country until June 1.