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Canada in Space: Destination Earth

Canada in Space: Destination Earth

Canada in Space: Destination Earth, a 16,000 sq. ft. (about 1,500 m2) exhibition, is the largest and the most complex exhibition the Canada Science and Technology Museum has ever produced.

It took six years to research, design and produce the exhibition, with the cooperation of a number of government agencies, aerospace industries and universities. The exhibition was developed by a multidisciplinary team, including Ms. Doris Jelly, now retired but formerly Curator, Space Technology, who was responsible for the content of the exhibition. Doris Jelly's research led to a publication called Canada: 25 years in Space (1987).

Canada in Space: Destination Earth tells the story of Canada's leading role in the development of space science and technology, shows the Canadian accomplishments during the last thirty-six years and gives an idea of the main programmes that are underway. The exhibition makes it very clear that the Canadian approach to space has been, almost from the very beginning, very practical and related to the improvement of the quality of life on Earth - whence the sub-title, "Destination Earth" - with special emphasis on Canada.

The exhibition is very much related to the general theme of the Museum which is "The Transformation of Canada". It shows how Canadians developed space technologies to solve problems unique to our sprawling geography and our northern environment. It also shows in various ways how strongly space technologies have impacted on the lives of Canadians... for instance how easily we now communicate among ourselves or with the rest of the world (the Global Village), how Earth observation has allowed us to monitor our crops, our forests, our coastal waters and to predict the weather more efficiently, how we have benefited from space-age materials, how lives have been saved by signals received via satellites, etc.

The exhibition offers a variety of ways and means to stimulate interest and convey the storyline. First of all, artifacts: "Canada in Space: Destination Earth" contains the largest collection of Canadian space artifacts anywhere - engineering models of Alouette, ISIS, Hermes satellites, Black Brant rockets, STEM antennas, Marc Garneau space suit, actual experimental payloads that have flown hundreds of kilometres above Earth, etc. It also includes simulated settings, models, interactive "hands-on" displays and games, audio-visual presentations, and special effects.

Canada in Space: Destination Earth is divided into the following concept areas:

The introductory area, Getting into Space, brings visitors via a "time tunnel" from the early fantasies and visions about space to the international pioneers whose work led to the dawn of the space age. The area opens up to highlight the Alouette satellite as the symbol of Canada's entry into the Space Age. The mood is established by a multi-media presentation that begins with a brilliant simulation of an aurora.

Canada's unique geophysical environment and the research carried out by Canadians to study the upper atmosphere are the focal points for the Space Science area. The major stories, related to the development and use of rockets and satellites, are presented using many artifacts including two Black Brant rockets and an engineering model of the ISIS satellite. Separate displays feature STEM antennas, the Viking UV auroral imager and the WINDII experiment on the Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite.

The Communications theme area reflects Canada's internationally recognized expertise in the technology and applications of communications satellites. The theme is introduced through a video in the "John Chapman Theatre" which pays tribute to Dr. Chapman whose vision and leadership led to major Canadian achievements in space and particularly in communications satellites. The primary stories told in this section are those associated with Anik A1, the first Canadian communications satellite, and Hermes, the first high-power satellite. These areas feature a full-scale model of Anik A1 and the engineering model of Hermes. Other displays present the stories of satellites used for search and rescue and for mobile communications (MSAT).

The Earth Watch area shows how weather forecasting and remote sensing technologies are applied successfully to meet Canadian needs. It also emphasizes the Canadian expertise developed in receiving and interpreting data from these satellites. Several interactive displays will help the visitor to learn about these technologies. This section includes an exhibition on Radarsat, Canada's first remote sensing satellite.

The Space Labs are exploration areas where kids and adults alike can learn more about the basic science and technology of space. They have interactive hands-on exhibits and short videos to present generic information related to topics such as how rockets work, satellite orbits, and living and working in space.

The People in Space area focuses on Canadian technology, research and expertise for exploring and living in space both in the space shuttle and on the space station. First of all, visitors learn why and how we "got there" and will be able to view a mock-up of the American space shuttle aft deck with its most famous component: the first generation Canadarm.

The focus is on "the establishment of a permanent human presence in space", especially with the Russian space station MIR and the International Space Station. Visitors can pay tribute to the men and women working in space by sharing their experience and the way they live. Highlighted is the Canadian contribution to the International Space Station, in particular the Mobile Servicing System and the second generation Canadarm with its dextrous hands and space vision system.

Canadian Astronaut Daffyd (Dave) Williams (front right) participates in an experiment of the space shuttle STS-90 (1998).
Photo NASA

Exhibit-goers also get to know the Canadian astronauts (men and women), the demanding selection process they had to go through, and the missions they have already accomplished or are just about to accomplish. People looking for an exciting space-related job can enjoy descriptions of possible careers as scientists, engineers, technologists or technicians. They even get an idea of the studies and the human qualities required to do those jobs.

After all of this, people can take a ride on the brand new SimEx Virtual Voyages™ simulator and experience a flight in space.

Canada in Space: Destination Earth was the Museum's contribution to the International Space Year and to Canada 125 celebrations in 1992. This major exhibition is a long-term feature of the Canada Science and Technology Museum and is being updated from time to time.

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