On many space shuttle flights over a period of 30 years, the Canadian-built robotic arm named the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS), more widely known as the Canadarm, proved to be a key tool. At 50 feet long and weighing 900 pounds, the six-jointed grappler was a surprisingly nimble instrument that could handle bulky cargo, spacewalking astronauts, and sensitive scientific instruments.
In April 1990, the Canadarm helped launch the Hubble Space Telescope from the cargo bay of Space Shuttle Discovery. The observatory would require corrective optics and several servicing missions to help produce its astounding collection of astronomy images.
In May 2009, crew on the Space Shuttle Atlantis conducted the fifth and final servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. Earth's horizon is seen in the distance, with light reflecting off the shuttle and the Canadarm.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (upper right) called in from the International Space Station to help unveil the Canadarm's new permanent display at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. The arm was in use for 30 years, with five produced for the shuttle fleet, and was finally retired in 2011.
During shuttle mission STS-74 in 1995, Hadfield became the first Canadian Space Agency astronaut to operate the Canadarm.
Photo by: Canadian Press/Canadian Space Agency
/ Caption by:Tim Hornyak
The Canadarm had an end effector that helped move heavy objects around. In the weightlessness of space, the robot boom could move objects that would weigh as much as a fully loaded bus on Earth using hardly any electricity.
Photo by: Canada Aviation and Space Museum
/ Caption by:Tim Hornyak
Fixed to the Canadarm, NASA astronaut Steven Smith grapples with the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph, which was removed from the Hubble Space Telescope during the STS-82 mission of 1997. The instrument was replaced by the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS).
As part of the Return to Flight program following the 2003 Columbia disaster, shuttles were equipped with a 50-foot boom called the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS), which was deployed by Canadarm to check for damage to shuttle heat shields.
In this 2007 photo, astronaut Scott Parazynski (right) dangles from the OBSS while Space Shuttle Discovery was docked with the International Space Station. Parazynski made repairs to the station's P6 solar array.
Based on the International Space Station, the 55-foot Canadarm2 is the successor to the Canadarm. It has seven joints and can move end over end, like an inchworm, across the surface of the ISS wherever there are grapple fixtures.
Apart from helping build the station, Canadarm2 grabs resupply craft, unloads cargo, and serves as a work platform for astronauts such as Stephen Robinson, seen here during the STS-114 mission of the Space Shuttle Discovery to the ISS in 2005.