TORONTO - The anniversary of the first launch of the Canadarm 31 years ago is being celebrated on Google.ca with a doodle.

The image on Google Canada's home page depicts an astronaut floating in space and manipulating the Canadarm to spell out the L and E in Google.

Google's chief doodler Ryan Germick says the suggestion for the image came from the company's Canadian offices a few months back.

He says his team chooses from "hundreds and hundreds" of doodle ideas to work with and is on track to have completed about 300 by the end of 2012.

Germick says the Canadarm doodle took "several tens of hours" to complete.

The Canadarm had its first mission on Nov. 13, 1981 on the U.S. space shuttle Columbia.

"For doodles we really try to sort of celebrate things that are exciting to Google as a culture and we think will be exciting for our users," says Germick.

"We're big proponents of technology and innovation and knowing this is one of the really cool things that Canada has done for space technology we thought it would be the perfect thing to celebrate."

The Canadarm is 15 metres long with a 33-centimetre diameter and a weight of about 410 kilograms.

The dexterous robotic arm was used to move and retrieve satellites and provide support for astronauts during spacewalks, among other tasks.

Its final mission with shuttle Endeavour ended June 1.

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  • Lunar Exploration Light Rover

    One of the CSA's new rovers, the Lunar Exploration Light Rover is designed to be a terrestrial prototype of a mobile Moon lab. It can be fitted with a robotic arm to allow it to scoop up samples for analysis on board. The largest and the fastest rover in the CSA's fleet, the six-wheel rover was also designed with the option of upgrading it to transport humans to test how astronauts might operate the rover while working on the surface of the Moon (much like the Moon buggy used during the Apollo missions). A long-range explorer that can roam up to 15 km from its home base, the rover can be tele-operated from a remote location, and is semi-autonomous (the rover uses its on-board lidar to scan its environment and navigate around obstacles without human assistance). Mass: 900 kg Can carry 300 kg of science payloads Top speed: 15 km/h Prime contractor: MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) Contract value: $14.6 million including SL-Commander (see below) Partners: Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP), UTIAS-ASRL (Autonomous Space Robotics Lab), Ryerson University, University of Western Ontario, York University, University of Winnipeg, University of British Columbia, McMaster University, Hamilton Sunstrand, University of Toronto, Turquoise Technology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Penguin ASI

  • Artemis

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  • Kapvik

    Weighing in at a mere 40 kg, Kapvik (Innu for "Wolverine") is one of the CSA's two micro-rovers. Micro-rovers can work as helpers for humans (for instance, to help an astronaut dig) or even for other larger lunar rovers. Their small stature allows them to scout out tight spaces (like caves or crevices). Kapvik can even be tethered to a larger rover and lowered down slopes of up to 65 degrees (compare to the steepest ski jumps, which are no more than 40 degrees!). Kapvik's robotic arm does double-duty as its mast, allowing the rover's sensors to scan and map its environment to search for minerals, water or ice. Once the fully autonomous rover spots an interesting target, it can make its own way to the site, deploy its robotic arm, dig a trench and deposit soil or rocks into the two small collection cans on either of its "shoulders". Robotic mast and miniature imaging sensors Rocker-bogie suspension system Tele-operable and full autonomy Travel range greater than 500 m Unaided operations on slopes up to 30 degrees Tethered operations on steep slopes up to 65 degrees Robotic mast with end effector that enables acquisition of selected samples and subsurface trenching Multispectral imaging UV-Vis/IR sensors provide in situ analysis and 2-D mapping of mineralogy, water/ice content and planetary resources Prime contractor: MPB Communications Contract value: $2 million Partners: Carleton University, Ryerson University, UTIAS, MDA, University of Winnipeg, Xiphos Technologies

  • Micro-Rover Platform with Tooling Arm

    One of the CSA's two micro-rovers, this pint-sized rover can act as a helper robot for an astronaut or work in tandem with a larger rover. Micro-rovers can be used to investigate small spaces where larger rovers or humans can't fit. A micro-rover can even be tethered to a larger rover so that it can travel down slopes of up to 65 degrees. This pint-sized rover's special talent is its ability to travel over rocky terrain. It can be modified to use wheels or tracks as needed, and can even lower or raise its centre of gravity for increased stability on tricky terrain. 30 kg micro-rover platform with tooling arm well-suited for scouting, sample return and science exploration Travel range greater than 500 m Unaided operations on slopes up to 30 degrees Tethered operations on steep slopes up to 65 degrees Variable and modular configuration provides added flexibility for a variety of operational scenarios over rocky terrains Navigation system allows remote, autonomous or collaborative control mode Prime contractor: Engineering Services Inc. Contract value: $2.15 million Partners: Cohort Systems Inc (formerly Frontline Robotics), York University

  • Rex

    Rex (short for Robot EXplorer) is a terrestrial rover designed to simulate collecting rock and soil samples on the surface of Mars. Named following a national contest with History TV, the six-wheeled rover can drive over obstacles as high as 15 cm, and is equipped with a robotic arm. Rex can carry up to 30 kg of science equipment to scoop up rocks and soil. It successfully completed its first Earth-bound mission in a joint field-test with NASA at the Flagstaff Meteor Crater in Arizona in 2010. Size (L x W x H): 152 x 142 x 76 cm Mass: 140 Kg 6 Wheel: 6 (aluminium or rubber) Can carry up to 30 kg of science payloads Nominal speed: 4 cm/sec Obstacle Clearance: 15 cm Slope Climbing: 10 degrees Prime Contractor: MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) Contract value: approx $1.3 million

  • Mars Exploration Science Rover

    The Mars Exploration Science Rover is one of the CSA's new terrestrial prototypes, and is much like a robotic geologist for conducting science on the surface of the Red Planet, especially for a mission to return samples from the Red Planet for study on Earth. The solar powered six-wheeled rover is designed to operate with a robotic arm with a microscope and mini-corer on the end to drill into rocks to analyze their composition, and retrieve interesting samples for study. Mass: 250 kg Can carry up to 70 kg of science payloads Tele-operations enabled Nominal speed: 0.4 km/h 6 wheel-drive, 4 independent steering, flexible suspension Solar-powered (329 W max) Vision system integrated Prime contractor: MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) Contract value: $7.25 million Partners: BRP, UTIAS-ASRL, UTIAS-Space Flight Laboratory (SFL), The University of Western Ontario, McGill University, Memorial University, Brock University, York University, University of Winnipeg, Turquoise Technology