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Don't Leave Earth Without It

The Canadarm (870899*) is undoubtedly the best known piece of Canadian space hardware. The Museum's collection includes engineering mockups of all the major components and production parts for thousands of bits of the arm. Built for the Canadian Space Agency by Spar Aerospace, it has become a key component of the American space shuttles. First launched in 1981, a Canadarm has been on every space shuttle since. It is used to launch satellites, capture old satellites (like the Hubble Space Telescope) for repairs or as a platform for astronauts to carry out extra-vehicular research.

Canadarm has been a key space shuttle component for almost twenty years. Its successor, the MSS, will assemble the International Space Station. (NASA)

Numerous improvements have been made since that first launch, including the addition of the Space Vision System (970031), which allows astronauts to perform preprogrammed functions ten times faster and with greater safety than when the arm is controlled by an astronaut. The flight components of the original SVS first launched in 1991 are on exhibit in the mock-up of the aft deck of the shuttle.

The unqualified success of Canadarm made Canada the logical choice to build the equivalent hardware - the Mobile Servicing System, with its several subsystems - for the International Space Station. As sophisticated as the Canadarm was, it looks like a "Model T" compared to the MSS, whose role will be none less than the assembly and maintenance of the ISS.

* The numbers in brackets are the accession numbers of artifacts held by the Museum.