Space Robotics Dominate New $5 Bill in Canada

In a world first, Canada’s Chris Hadfield unveiled a new money note — while in space.

Hadfield spun a fiver before the camera Tuesday as part of a ceremony to announce new $5 and $10 bills that will be distributed in Canada this year. The $5 bill will feature two pieces of Canadian technology that helped build the station: Canadarm2, which is a mobile robotic arm, and the hand-like Dextre.

The bill also shows an unidentified astronaut. That said, the choice to use Hadfield in the press conference was likely not a coincidence: Hadfield assisted with Canadarm2’s installation in 2001 when he became the first Canadian to walk in space.

“These bills will remind Canadians, every time they buy a sandwich and a coffee and a donut, what we are capable of achieving,” said Hadfield, who is in command of Expedition 35 on the International Space Station. His comments were carried on a webcast from the Bank of Canada.

The money note travelled with Hadfield in his Soyuz when he rocketed to the station in December, the Canadian Space Agency told Universe Today.

The polymer notes are intended to be more secure than the last generation of bills issued in Canada. Polymer $20, $50 and $100 bills are already available, but the smaller currencies won’t hit consumer pocketbooks until November.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield holds a version of the $5 bill on the International Space Station. Credit: Bank of Canada (webcast)

“Featuring a sophisticated combination of transparency and holography, this is the most secure bank note series ever issued by the Bank of Canada. The polymer series is more economical, lasting at least two and half times longer than cotton-based paper bank notes, and will be recycled in Canada,” the Bank of Canada stated in a press release.

As with the past $5 bill, the opposite face of the new bill shows a drawing of past prime minister Wilfrid Laurier. Also shown at the ceremony: the $10 bill, with a Via Canada train on one side and John A. Macdonald, the first Canadian prime minister, on the other.

Both Jim Flaherty, Canada’s minister of finance, and Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney wore Expedition 35 pins at the press conference.

“I hope that’s not London calling,” Flaherty quipped to laughing reporters when NASA’s Mission Control phoned in with Hadfield on the line.

Hadfield is no stranger to space-themed currency. In 2006, the Royal Mint of Canada released two coins featuring him and Canadarm2. Hadfield and several other Canadian astronauts were also put on to Canadian stamps in 2003.

You can check out the full set of polymer bills on this Flickr series uploaded by the Bank of Canada.

Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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