Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday that Canada will be a partner in a NASA-led project to establish an outpost for lunar exploration.
"Canada is going to the moon," Trudeau declared as he made the announcement at the Canadian Space Agency in the Montreal suburb of Longueuil.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is embarking on the creation of its new Lunar Gateway, a space station that will orbit the moon. The station is expected to be fully functional around 2026.
"The Lunar Gateway will be one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by human beings to date," Trudeau said. "Not only will this moon outpost allow for a long-term lunar presence but it will also serve as a launch pad to Mars and beyond."
The plan calls for a "sustainable lunar architecture" that would allow people and equipment to go back and forth to the moon regularly, NASA says. It is described as a first step toward deeper space exploration.
Trudeau said the partnership in the Lunar Gateway will be part of a new federal space strategy that will see the government invest $2.05 billion over 24 years. He said the investment will create hundreds of well-paying jobs and contribute $100 million annually to Canada's gross domestic product.
Canada's key contribution to the Lunar Gateway will be developing a smart robotic system, to be known as Canadarm 3. The mechanism will repair and maintain the outpost, which will be about one-fifth the size of the International Space Station.
"Canadarm was essential to the space shuttle, Canadarm 2 built the International Space Station, so it's only fitting and right that the arm that will repair and maintain the Lunar Gateway will yet again be made in Canada by Canadians," Trudeau said.
Last November, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine visited Ottawa to make a pitch for Canadian involvement in the moon project. He said at the time that he hoped Canadian expertise in artificial intelligence and robotics could yield a new Canadarm. "If Canadians want to be involved in missions to the surface of the moon with astronauts, we welcome that," he added.
U.S. ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft said in a statement that Thursday's announcement marks "the beginning of a new era of U.S.-Canada space co-operation.”