CSA Teacher Resources

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) was established in 1989 by the Canadian Space Agency Act. The agency operates like a government department. The president of the CSA oversees five core functions including

  • Space Programs
  • Space Technologies
  • Space Science
  • Canadian Astronaut Office
  • Space Operations

He also looks after six executive and three corporate functions.

The mandate of the Canadian Space Agency is to promote the peaceful use and development of space, to advance the knowledge of space through science and to ensure that space science and technology provide social and economic benefits for Canadians.

CSA - 170 years in the making

The "history" of the CSA actually begins with some events that took place even before Confederation. In 1839 Sir Edward Sabine established the first magnetic observatory at University of Toronto, to study the proposition made by Edmund Halley in 1716 that northern lights were formed according to the Earth's magnetic field.

Since that time, of course, there have been many "milestones" for the CSA. Some of the key dates include:

1957 [October 4] - the successful launch of the Soviet Sputnik 1 satellite, the first man-made object to orbit the Earth. The small sphere circled the globe for three months before burning upon re-entry in the atmosphere. Within hours of its launch, Canadian John Chapman and fellow scientists at Defense Research Telecommunications Establishment are the first to record Sputnik 1's beeps.

1961 [April 12] - after completing one orbit around the Earth during a 108-minute flight, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, makes history as the first human being in space. On May 5th, Astronaut Alan B. Shepard becomes the first American in space after a 15-minute suborbital flight. The communication antenna of the spacecraft (STEM) is Canadian, built by de Havilland Aircraft of Downsview, Ontario.

1962 [February 20] - Astronaut John H. Glenn circles the Earth three times during a five-hour space flight equipped with a Canadian-built STEM antenna. Canadarm in spaceIn that same year, Canada becomes the third country to have a satellite in space – the science satellite Alouette.

1981 [November 13] - Launch of Canadarm aboard Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-2).

1984 [October 5-13] - Astronaut Marc Garneau becomes the first Canadian in space on mission STS-41G aboard Challenger. On this mission, Canadarm is operated for the ninth time on a space shuttle flight.

Teachers can get information about Canadian astronauts - the recruitment program, their specialties, special projects, Astronaut training and information on living in space at http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/astronauts/default.asp

1987 [June 19] - The Institute of Space and Terrestrial Science is inaugurated at York University as one of Ontario's Centres of Excellence. OCE has been a major sponsor of Tomatosphere for eight years.

1989 [March 1] - Creation of the Canadian Space Agency.

1992 - International Space Year [January 17] - The Canadian Space Agency launches a campaign to hire a second corps of astronauts and five days later, Astronaut Roberta Bondar becomes the second Canadian, and first Canadian woman, in space. From October 22 – November 1, The third Canadian Space Agency astronaut in space, Payload Specialist Steve MacLean, oversees Canadian experiments on mission STS-52.

1993 - Space Agency headquarters completed in Saint-Hubert, Quebec. The design evokes the space station. The building houses the astronaut training facilities, the RADARSAT Mission Control Room, MSS Operation Centre and labs devoted to life sciences, robotics, space systems, optics, and computer technology. In 1996, the building was officially designated as the John H. Chapman Space Centre, commemorating the father of the space program in Canada.

1995 [November 12-20] - The fourth Canadian in space, Air Force Maj. Chris A. Hadfield, is the first Canadian aboard space station Mir when he joins four crewmates on mission STS-74, the second Atlantis-Mir Docking Mission. Hadfield operates Canadarm to build the five-ton Russian Docking Module on the Orbiter Docking System.

1996 [May 19-29] - Aboard Shuttle Endeavour, Marc Garneau becomes the first Canadian astronaut to fly in space twice. From June 20th to July 7th, Bob Thirsk becomes the fifth Canadian in space when he participates as a Payload Specialist on mission STS-78/Life and Microgravity Sciences (LMS), inside the Spacelab module in the cargo bay of Columbia. This 17-day mission is the longest for a Canadian Space Agency astronaut. Dr. Thirsk has been associated with the Tomatosphere Project from its inception.

1997 [August 7-19] - Bjarni Tryggvason becomes the sixth Canadian astronaut in space for mission STS-85; he tests the next-generation Microgravity Isolation Mount (MIM), a unique Canadian device that he codesigned.

1998 [April 17 - May 3] - Mission Specialist Dr. Dave R. Williams becomes the seventh Canadian astronaut in space and the first non-American medical officer on a space shuttle mission when he joins six crewmates for the last mission on the Spacelab module, in the cargo bay of Shuttle Columbia.

1999 [May 27 - June 6] - Aboard Shuttle Discovery, Mission Specialist Julie Payette becomes the eighth Canadian Space Agency Astronaut in orbit and the first one to board the embryonic space station when she joins six other crewmates on mission STS-96/2A.1, the first logistics mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

2000 [November 30] - Marc Garneau, embarks on his third space mission as a crew member of STS-97.

2001 [April 19] - Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour with CSA Astronaut Chris Hadfield, to deliver Canadarm2 to the International Space Station. Chris Hadfield becomes the first Canadian to perform an Extra Vehicular Activity, or spacewalk.

2003 [August 4] - After a perfect launch and orbit insertion one month earlier, Canada's first space telescope - called MOST - opens its eye to the cosmos for the first time. Astronomers traditionally call this milestone for a telescope "first light." In November,it is announced that half a million Heinz tomato seeds will be launched to the International Space Station onboard a Russian rocket in early 2004 as part of the Tomatosphere Project.Steve MacLean operating canadarm2 in space

2006 [September 9-21] - During mission STS-115, Canadian Astronaut Steve MacLean and his crewmates successfully resumed the assembly of the International Space Station.

Steve MacLean became the first Canadian to operate Canadarm2 in space and the second Canadian to perform a spacewalk.

2007 [August 4] - NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander with Canada's meteorological station aboard was launched successfully. Phoenix landed safely on Mars on May 25, 2008 - planting the maple leaf on the Red planet for the first time!

2008 [March 19] - The robot Dextre, the third and final component of the International Space Station's Canadian Mobile Servicing System, is installed on the orbital outpost, freeing astronauts from tasks requiring them to venture out of the Station.

2009 - In May 2009, Two new Canadian Astronauts were introduced – Jeremy Hansen and David St-Jacques; they are the first new astronauts to join the program since 1992. In that same month, Dr. Robert Thirsk lifted off for six months on the ISS.  He left at 6.34 a.m. (EDT) from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Dr. Thirsk's roles included Crew Medial Officer, robotics specialist and specialist for the Japanese experimental facility – Kibo.  In July of the same year, Julie Payette joined Dr. Thirsk on the station – her second space flight; their reunion on the ISS marked a Canadian first – two Canadians meeting in space!   Robert Thirsk returned to Earth on Decembeer 1 and returned to Canada on the 19th of January, 2010.

The US Shuttle program ended in July of 2011 with the final flight of Atlantis which carried 600 000 Tomatosphere seeds to the station; they will remain there until returned to Earth with Chris Hadfield in 2013.

In 2012, Canadarm2 performed a cosmic catch by grappling the Dragon capsule – the first commercial spacecraft to the ISS. In August, Curiosity landed on Mars carrying a Canadian Device to probe the chemistry of rocks and surface material on Mars.  In December, Chris Hadfield returned to space for the third time; he is due to take over as the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station during the second half of his six-month mission.


Tomatosphere is sponsored by Let's Talk Science, the Canadian Space Agency, Heinz Canada Ltd, HeinzSeed, Stokes Seeds and the University of Guelph.