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Space Stuff

5 things Canada has contributed to space exploration

Published on April 02, 2018 | Last Updated April 12, 2022
Astronaut Chris Hadfield floating in space.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield making a spacewalk in 2001. (NASA)

When most people think about Canada, they imagine Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes or prairies. You know, Earth stuff! But did you know that Canada has made a lot of out-of-this-world contributions to space too?


Chris Hadfield is Canada’s musical astronaut! Not only did he travel on three space missions, he did them all while playing the guitar and floating in zero gravity. So cool!

Roberta Bondar and her crew in orange flight suits

Roberta Bondar (second from the left) and the rest of the Space Shuttle Discovery crew. (NASA)

Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar is multitalented too. She holds university degrees in zoology, agriculture, science, philosophy and medicine. She also has her certification in skydiving and parachuting.

All that homework really paid off though — she was Canada’s first woman to travel to space! In total, nine Canadians have been selected to help on 16 space missions.

Proof of black holes

A depiction of a black hole, with a fiery ring in the center and blue wisps on the outside

A depiction of a black hole in space. (NASA)

Black holes are really interesting. They work by sucking everything up around them like a straw in space!

The strong gravitational pull actually makes black holes shrink smaller the more they suck in. So they can be hard to see. For a long time, scientists thought black holes existed but couldn’t actually find one.

A white building with a domed roof, known as the David Dunlap observatory

The David Dunlap Observatory in Toronto. (John H. Martin/CC BY 2.5)

That was until researchers from the University of Toronto found one!

They used a powerful telescope at the David Dunlap Observatory and found the first evidence of a black hole in 1972! It was called Cygnus X-1 and the amazing discovery really put Canada on the star map!

Crater names on Mars

a satellite photo of a crater on Mars

An unnamed crater on the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

A crater is another word for a shallow hole in the ground and there are a lot of them on Mars! Scientists actually name them to keep track of their research.

And did you know some craters are even named after places in Canada? It’s true! See this list below? If you live in any of these places, there is a crater on Mars named after your hometown!

  • Alberta: Banff, Chinook, Okotoks or Windfall
  • Newfoundland: Canso, Gander, Nain, Nakusp, Nipigon or Natuk
  • Quebec: Chapais, Clova or Lachute
  • Ontario: Dinorwic, Doon or Loon
  • Saskatchewan: Endeavour or Tugaske
  • British Columbia: Hope, Penticton or Quick
  • Northwest Territories: Inuvik
  • P.E.I.: Kinkora or Tignish
  • Manitoba: Souris

The Canadarm

The Canadarm in space

The Canadarm installing a thermal cube. (NASA)

The Canadarm was a remote-controlled robotic arm developed by Canadians. For 30 years the Canadarm was used on 90 space missions. It helped capture and deploy satellites, dock space shuttles and helped build the International Space Station (ISS).

The Canadarm was so strong it could lift over 30,000 kilograms on Earth, or up to 266,000 kilograms in the weightlessness of space.

Space farming

stacks of plants being grown in a greenhouse

A hyrdroponic farm at work.

Farming is definitely something Canadians are great at, so why not do it in space?

The University of Guelph leads the world in research for building greenhouses in space using hydroponics. That means growing plants without soil! Scientists are testing small hydroponic crops of lettuce, radish, tomato and cucumber in Nunavut. Why Nunavut? There's very little sunlight during winter and temperatures dip below -50 degrees Celsius..

Believe it or not, those conditions are perfect because they closely resemble the weather on Mars. In the future, Canadian scientists are hoping that astronauts will never have to take their lunch to work in space!

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