Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

2 NASA astronauts obtain unique Canadian qualification
Posted: April 3, 2000

An artist's concept of the SSRMS arm mounted to the International Space Station. Photo: NASA
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded robotic operator's wings to NASA astronauts Dan Bursch and Carl Walz, the first astronauts to obtain the qualification to operate the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), the new Canadian robotic arm to be installed on the International Space Station (ISS).

"The Canadian Space Agency is very proud today to award the first Canadian qualification to two NASA astronauts to operate the new Canadian robotic arm to be installed on the International Space Station," said Michel Vachon, Director General of the Canadian Astronaut Office at the CSA. "The Canadian Space Agency has a leading role in the training of astronauts and cosmonauts since those who will be assigned to the Space Station and to operate the SSRMS will be required to come to the Canadian Space Agency in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, to obtain the necessary qualification," he explained.

NASA Astronauts Dan Bursch and Carl Walz spent the week of March 27 at the CSA in Saint-Hubert to receive from Canadian experts in the operation of the SSRMS the final portion of the required training syllabus. "Mr. Bursch and Mr. Walz successfully completed all aspects of the training. As of today, they are the only two persons in the world who are officially qualified to operate the Space Station Remote Manipulator System" said Ann Logan, Manager of the training at the CSA.

American astronauts Carl Walz and Dan Bursch said, "We were impressed by the flexibility and high degree of adaptivity of the Canadian training system." Bursch has extensive previous experience operating the Space Shuttle Canadarm, having accompanied CSA astronaut Marc Garneau on the STS-77 mission in May 1996.

The Space Station Remote Manipulator System is the first of three components of the Mobile Servicing System, Canada's main contribution to the International Space Station. The ISS is the biggest joint scientific project ever undertaken to date. Sixteen countries are partners in this project. While Astronaut Julie Payette was the first Canadian to visit the Space Station in May 1999 and Marc Garneau will be the next one in December, Chris Hadfield will have the major responsibility of delivering the SSRMS to the Space station during the STS-100 mission scheduled for April 2001.

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