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March 2003

Chris Gainor

In February the federal government�s budget for 2003 included spending for space exploration and astronomy, including the work of astronomers here at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.

According to one report, the budget includes funds for Canada�s participation in leading-edge astronomy projects, including the Extended Very Large Array project in New Mexico and the Atacama Large Millimetre Array project in Chile.

In recent years, the federal government has decided to provide relatively secure funding for astronomy programs, and for our space program. I know that none of this funding was granted without a great deal of hard work by scientists and others who support basic research.

Canada has much to be proud of in terms of the work done by its astronomers, engineers and others involved in space sciences. What is remarkable is that these achievements were supported with funding that is only a fraction � even on a per capita basis � of what American astronomers and space scientists get from their government.

The tiny fraction of the federal budget that goes into space � including the Canadian Space Agency, spending on space is not even a quarter of one per cent of the budget � not only gives our scientists the tools to do their important work, it also creates high-technology jobs in the private sector. For example, a firm in the Lower Mainland fabricates observatory domes for major telescopes, and our space-related exports outstrip the government�s annual spending on space.

Yet space is forgotten or taken for granted. Last fall, the 40th anniversary of the launch of Canada�s first satellite was ignored because it fell on the same day as the 30th anniversary of the final game of the first Canada-Russia hockey series.

What this means is that it is up to us to remind politicians and our friends and fellow taxpayers that Canada�s support for space creates far more than pride � it creates knowledge and new opportunities for talented Canadians.

We get to meet many of those talented people when they come to our meetings and tell us about their research. We can repay them for their great efforts by making sure that the federal government continues to support their work.


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Last updated: February 26, 2010

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is dedicated to the promotion of astronomy and its related sciences; we espouse the scientific method, and support dissemination of discoveries and theories based on that well-tested method.

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