Is Dextre the last hurrah for the Canadian space program?

Even as the Canadian space officials look forward to the launch of their robot Dextre to the International Space Station this week, they are facing a range of challenges to their future, the National Post reports.

The Canadian Space Agency’s budget has been frozen for the last decade and political leaders have not given the agency a firm commitment to participate in the American human lunar and Mars program, the newspaper says. CSA’s president, Laurier Boisvert, resigned in December after only nine months on the job.

Boisvert’s resignation was apparently spurred, in part, by the planned sale of the space technology division of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. to an American military contractor. The company built the country’s most visible contribution to human spaceflight, Canadarm, as well as the Dextre robot, which is set for launch this week aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

Ben Quine, a professor at York University’s Earth and Space Engineering department, said Canada’s future direction is uncertain. “Canadarm was a great Canadian success story,” he told the paper. “But to some extent, we’ve lost our way in the space industry in this country … I think we’ve got to be really careful about our direction in the future. We need a viable space industry and a vibrant research and development sector.”