On today’s date in 1983—four days into NASA mission STS-7—the first operational use of the Canadarm saw the SPAS-01 (Shuttle Palette Satellite 01) deployed from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger.
Built by Spar Aerospace in Toronto, the Canadarm (or Shuttle Remote Manipulator System) measured 15.2 metres in length and was capable of accurately maneuvering payloads of 30,000 kilograms in the weightlessness of space. Its weight on Earth was 410 kilograms.
Altogether, five Canadarms were built and delivered to NASA in April 1981; January 1983; December 1983; March 1985; and August 1993. One arm was lost in the Challenger accident in 1986.
FIRST CANADIAN SPACEWALK
On April 22, 2001, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield made aerospace history when he became the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk. Using Canadarm, Hadfield installed Canadarm2 on the International Space Station (ISS), which is located about 400 kilometres above the Earth. This next-generation robotic arm was born on the successes of the original Canadarm—the first robotic arm ever built for use in space.
2006 CANADARM COINS
In 2006, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a $30 silver coin to mark the achievements of the Canadarm. Struck in .925 per cent silver, this coin had a weight of 31.5 grams; a diameter of 40 mm; and a mintage of 9,357 pieces.
That year, the Mint also struck a $300 gold coin featuring Hadfield on his historic spacewalk alongside a laser-enhanced Canadarm. This coin has a weight of 45 grams; a 40-mm diameter; and a mintage of 1,000 pieces.
Designed by Cecily Mok, who emigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in 1993, the coin’s reverse depicts Hadfield on the first first spacewalk performed by a Canadian.
2015 SPACE EXPLORATION COIN
In 2015, the Mint issued a 99.99 per cent silver coin highlighting Canadian space exploration as part of the 10-coin “Exploring Canada” series, which was issued monthly between June 2014 and April 2015.
Designed by Canadian artist John Mantha, the coin’s reverse celebrates Canada’s role in space with a quintessential image of modern space exploration—two astronauts on a spacewalk outside the space shuttle. Orbiting high above the Earth, they are making repairs to the Hubble Telescope with the assistance of the Canadarm.
This coin has a weight of 23.17 grams; a 36.07-mm diameter; and a mintage of 15,000 pieces.