St. Monica School Reaches For The Stars

The final frontier came to St. Monica School recently as Bill Chisholm, one of the project managers behind the original Canadarm and Laurie Metcalfe, a Canadian Space Agency expert who worked on Dextre will speak to the students about the groundbreaking technology created in Canada some 30 years ago.

Chisholm, who was the project manager for the Electronic Sub System, was part of a team that developed a critical piece of machinery which was integral to the Space Shuttle and now to the International Space Station (ISS). The efforts of Chisholm and the many others he worked with truly showcased Canadian technology at the time. Since its first launch on November 13, 1981, the arm has been fitted onto all NASA Space Shuttles and has been used over 50 times in space.

Metcalfe served as the MSS Operations Analyst for the launch of Dextre, one of the newest pieces of technology on the ISS. Dextre, often referred to as the “Canada Hand”, was launched on March 11, 2008 and is a two armed robot, or telemanipulator, which is a part of the Mobile Servicing System on the ISS. It gives the astronauts the ability to perform detailed tasks in space without leaving the station. 

The technology worked on by Chisholm helped pave the way for the Canadarm2, a larger and more advanced version of the original. The modern arm is permanently attached to the International Space Station and is capable of handling large payloads of up to 116,000 kg (256,000 lb) and assisting with docking the Space Shuttle. Dextre is attached to the Canadarm2, thus earning the moniker of the “Canada Hand”.

While few individuals have had the opportunity to seen the Canadarm in action, its length is as long as two telephone poles and rides into space folded in the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle. In orbit, the arm comes to life by unfolding its joints at the shoulder, elbow and wrist. Engineered for zero gravity, it is able to pluck a 40,000-kilogram satellite out of space, however, on earth, Chisholm joked that "it couldn't pick up a coffee table.”

With the end of the Space Shuttle program this summer, the three Canadarms remaining will be put on permanent displays at museums in both the United States and Canada.