The Best of Times, the Worst of Times (Canada)

Declaring the nation to be at a crossroads in space, the Toronto Star is urging Canadian policymakers to chart a firm course for the country.

Star editors point to three worrisome signs: Canada’s active astronaut corps has dwindled down to three; its last contribution to the International Space Station, the Dextre robot, was successfully installed on the space station last week; and the builder of Dextre and Radarsat 2 is up for sale to an American defense contractor.

The paper urged Conservative Industry Jim Prentice “to weigh the merits – and demerits” of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates’ plan to sell its space division to Alliant Technosystems. Beyond that, the Star editors said policymakers need to define what precisely Canada should do in space.

“Marc Garneau, former astronaut and past head of the Canadian Space Agency (and a future Liberal candidate), says what we need is a comprehensive space strategy. ‘We are very much at a crossroads, at a time when even India, China and Brazil have got very ambitious space programs,’ says Garneau. ‘It seems everybody’s going up there while we are beginning to slip,'” the editors wrote.

MDA Shareholders Approve Sale of Division to Alliant Techsystems

The shareholders of Canada’s MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. have overwhelming approved the controversial sale of its space and satellite business to American defense contractor Alliant Techsystems (ATK), The Canadian Press reports.

The proposed sale, which sent shock waves through the Canadian space industry, was approved by 99.9 percent of shareholders. MDA makes Canadarm, the robotic arm used aboard the space shuttle and the international space station. It also built Dextre, an ISS robot that was just launched aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.

ATK will pay $1.325 billion in cash for MDA’s space and satellite business. MDA said the sale would provide an infusion of cash and allow it to focus on its information products business.

Canandian opponents of the sale, who say it would cripple Canada’s space program, have vowed to try to block the sale. The transaction must be approved by Canadian and American regulators.