'It is glorious,' says astronaut Jeremy Hansen, announced as 1st Canadian to orbit the moon
4 astronauts will be part of Artemis II, a mission that will orbit the moon
Jeremy Hansen is heading to the moon.
The 47-year old Canadian astronaut was announced today as one of four astronauts — along with Christina Koch, Victor Glover and Reid Wiseman — who will be part of NASA's Artemis II mission.
"For me, it's a bit unreal still," Hansen told CBC's Paul Hunter.
"I just want Canadians to feel that pride. I just want Canadians to realize, hey, we are up to big things here in Canada and can accomplish the seemingly impossible if we believe in ourselves."
Hansen was one of four active Canadian astronauts that included Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons, Joshua Kutryk and David Saint-Jacques vying for a seat on the Orion spacecraft set to orbit the moon.
Artemis I was the first test of NASA's new mega-rocket — the Space Launch System (SLS) and its new crew capsule, Orion. Uncrewed, it launched in November on a 25-day mission around the moon that was deemed a success.
Artemis II is the second step in NASA's mission to return astronauts to the surface of the moon.
The astronauts won't be landing, but rather they will orbit for 10 days in the Orion spacecraft, testing key components to prepare for Artemis III that will place humans back on the moon some time in 2025 for the first time since 1972.
And, because of the orbit Orion will take, the four astronauts will travel farther than any astronauts ever have before them. With Artemis I, the Orion capsule travelled 434,523 kilometres from Earth. The farthest any other human-rated spacecraft had travelled previously was 400,171 kilometres during the Apollo 13 mission.
Canada gets a seat on Artemis II due to its contributions to Lunar Gateway, a space station that will orbit the moon. But Canada is also building a lunar rover provided by Canadensys Aerospace.
'Makes me smile'
On Monday, Hansen noted there are two reasons a Canadian is going to the moon, adding that it "makes me smile when I say that."
The first, he said, is American leadership, and the decision to curate an international team.
"The second reason is Canada's can-do attitude," he said proudly.
François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry, lauded the significance of a Canadian being part of the mission. In a news release, he congratulated Hansen "for being at the forefront of one of the most ambitious human endeavours ever undertaken."
"Canada's participation in the Artemis program will spur the creation of thousands of highly skilled jobs, boost innovation and be a source of national pride for years to come," he said.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Hansen "an exceptional individual."
"He will do all Canadians proud. There's no doubt about it."
Representing the <a href="https://twitter.com/csa_asc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@csa_asc</a> on <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Artemis?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Artemis</a> II to the Moon is <a href="https://twitter.com/Astro_Jeremy?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Astro_Jeremy</a>, from London, Ontario. <br><br>Jeremy Hansen was a fighter pilot before joining CSA, and currently works with NASA on astronaut training and mission operations. This will be Hansen’s first mission in space. <a href="https://t.co/zIVetAQeFE">pic.twitter.com/zIVetAQeFE</a>—@NASA
Patience pays off
Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Hansen recalled in a 2014 CSA interview that he always wanted to be an astronaut.
"For as long as I can remember, I was fascinated by space exploration," he said. "I looked at a photograph of Neil Armstrong standing on the moon, and I wanted to see what it would be like to leave this planet, to look at it from beyond."
Now he's getting his chance. Hansen said he found out about his role on the mission about two weeks ago. The only people he told were his wife, his children and his parents.
According to the CSA, Hansen joined the Air Cadet Program when he was 12, and then went on to study space science at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. He eventually became a pilot, flying CF-18s in Cold Lake, Alta. He is still a colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Hansen was recruited by the CSA in 2009 along with Saint-Jacques. Since then, he has done extensive training in the High Arctic, spent six days training in a cave in Italy and another seven days 19 metres below the surface off the coast Key Largo, Fla., as part of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project.
In 2016, Hansen was the voice of Capcom (a vintage term from NASA's Mercury program days that stands for capsule communicator) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The following year, he became the first Canadian in charge of training astronauts from both Canada and the United States.
Now, Hansen will spend his time training for his mission, which involves a spacecraft no human has ever flown in before.
With files from Paul Hunter and Natalie Stechyson