Canada got a seat in the Artemis 2 mission by bringing a ‘potato salad’

Hint: it's the Canadarm3.
Loukia Papadopoulos


Canada has a seat in the Artemis 2 moon mission coming up in November 2024, but what is interesting is how it got it. A new article by published on Saturday is likening the acquisition to ‘bringing a potato salad.”

The so-called salad would be Canadarm3, a robotic arm that will service the planned Gateway moon-orbiting space station.

Ken Podwalski, a senior Canadian Space Agency (CSA) official involved with the Artemis 2 and Gateway negotiations, explained the metaphor by comparing the reputation of Canada's space robotics to the dinner guest who comes with a delicious side dish: 

"People look at Canada and say, 'Canada, you guys make the best potato salad, bar none. It's the best potato salad you can get. Nobody does it like you,” he said.

Canadarms have become key components of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the ISS. Most notably the robotic arm starred in an incredible 2007 emergency spacewalk to fix a torn ISS solar panel.

In 2015, the future of the ISS collaboration was being discussed within Canada, and all agencies agreed building the new Canadarm3 was the primary aim. Podwalski once again likened the project to bringing the best potato salad to a dinner.

"Everybody expects Canada to bring the potato salad," he said. "The potato salad gets you in the door, no problem ... and it doesn't stop you from bringing anything else. You're now a part of the party. Now's a good time to bring up other things."

Staying flexible

After that, it was just a question of staying flexible through the negotiations, which extended across 2015 to 2018 and included policy changes in the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and other partners.

"It is difficult to pull together these multibillion-dollar programs and get all these partners with all their own agendas about what they want to do in space, what technologies they want to develop, and what they want to do with their industry," Podwalski said. 

In the end, he benefits from Canadarm3's "potato salad" approach, paid off, and got the country a seat at the Artemis 2 mission. 

"We're a partner in good standing," Podwalski added, according to "We're part of the initial [moon] foray; we're part of the trailblazers. It really does position Canada in a good way."

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