Apr 11, 2019 by Scott Garvey

Getting technical

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques gets ready for his first space walk aboard the ISS. Photo: courtesy CSA/NASA. Image copyright Canadian Space Agency/NASA 2019.

When I saw the first news images of Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques making a repair to the outside of the International Space Station, one thing stood out to me momentarily. All his tools were tethered to prevent them from drifting off into the black abyss of space.

I did briefly flirt with the idea of taking inspiration from that and tethering all my workshop tools to my belt too, because even in the full-gravity environment of earth, my tools seem to have a habit of floating away. Maybe I’m just getting old and senile, but I can recall wasting far too much time searching for the wrench I had just set down a few minutes ago as I briefly focused my attention on something else and then couldn’t find it again.

How could a shiny steel wrench no longer be within arms reach of my work area when I haven’t moved an inch, I’ve wondered many times. And don’t get me started on what happens to washers, nuts and small screws that drop onto the concrete workshop floor, especially those that can’t be easily replaced.

I’ve often wondered if my shop wasn’t built on a black hole that sucks up small tools and hardware.

After watching news about the spacewalk, I decided later to take a look at the Canadian Space Agency’s website. It then became pretty clear there is far more to take away from those images of Saint-Jacques floating in space than thinking about the tools he used. Just the fact that there is a Canadian Space Agency is kind of mind blowing for someone who can remember being glued to the TV as a kid watching Apollo 11 land on the moon.

NASA and Russia’s Cosmonauts had an exclusive lock on space travel back then. For those of us growing up in Canada, it seemed like the only way a Canadian would ever get to experience space travel was by getting a G.I. Joe space capsule toy for Christmas or reading all the “Mike Mars” kids books. (Mike was a clean living astronaut, if you haven’t heard of the book series.)

A couple of years ago, I happened to bump into (almost literally) that trailblazing Canadian astronaut-turned politician Marc Garneau at Pearson Airport in Toronto on by way back from some machinery event. It was one of those moments when you meet a hero you’ve always wanted to talk to and are so tongue-tied you sound like a complete idiot—sorry Marc.

The photo of Saint-Jacques proves kids growing up on Canadian farms today have far more opportunities than they did when I was young. They can realistically dream of being astronauts, without the idea being a total longshot. And with Hollywood movies and a wide assortment of TV shows now filming all across the country, working on being an actor portraying a character such as a space traveller or just being part of the film production crew is also a realistic dream.

Okay, bad example. That famous Canadian, William Shatner, proved that was already possible back in the ‘60s by becoming Captain James. T. Kirk of the Star Ship Enterprise, but you get my drift. The opportunities to get involved in so many really cool professions have grown exponentially.

As autonomy and robotics begin to take centre stage in agriculture, will that bring farming into line with all the other “cool” professions. Sitting in the cab of a high-horsepower tractor or classic semi truck all day once had the cool factor, but times have changed. As a generation, the Millennials are looking for different challenges and the chance to participate in cutting edge endeavours, according to HR experts. So it’s tough for farms to attract them as workers—at the moment.

Maybe as on-farm technology continues to move ahead in many giant leaps for mankind, there will be a chance for the farming profession to, well, boldly go where no one has gone before.

Sorry, but I just had to say it!

 

Scott

Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey


Grainews' machinery editor Scott Garvey follows trends and innovation in equipment technology, takes a look at new farm machinery offerings, tracks their performance and goes into the workshop to find better ways to keep them up and running.


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