Canada's newest astronauts will fly to space by 2024

Canada's two newest astronauts will get a chance to blast off into space at last, the federal government says.

David Saint-Jacques, Jeremy Hansen, have been training since 2009

Industry Minister James Moore, flanked by Canadian astronauts Jeremy Hansen (left) and David Saint-Jacques (right), announces Canada's commitment to fly two Canadian astronauts to space by 2024 Tuesday. One is expected to fly in 2019, the other in 2024. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Canada's two newest astronauts will finally get a chance to fly to space, the federal government says.

Canada will be able to send David Saint-Jacques and Jeremy Hansen to space by 2024, after formally committing to renew Canada's participation in the International Space Station, Industry Minister James Moore announced Tuesday at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa.That space station funding was first disclosed in the federal budget in April.

The previous Conservative government announced last year that the new astronauts would be heading to space in 2019 and 2024, but did not say who would go first. (NASA)

Saint Jacques, 45, who is from Quebec City, and Hansen, 39, of London, Ont. were named as Canada's new astronauts in 2009. They have been training ever since, but neither has ever left Earth.

One of them is now expected to fly by 2019 and the other by 2024, although who goes first has not been determined.

The last astronaut to fly in space was Chris Hadfield, who became the first Canadian commander of the space station during a five-month visit in 2013.

"Chris Hadfield made Canadians proud when he became the first Canadian to walk in space and command the International Space Station," Moore said in a statement today. "Our government is committed to ensuring two more Canadians fly to space within the next decade. More importantly, it confirms a great future for Canada in space for years to come."

Jeremy Hansen, 40, right, and David Saint-Jacques, 46, seen in the visitors gallery in Parliament last year, were named Canada's newest astronauts in 2009. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The commitment signals Canada's involvement in future space missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond, the federal government said in a news release.

Under a bartering system, countries collect "credits" based on their contributions to the development of the space station, with the credits traded in for trips by astronauts.Canada used up most of them for Chris Hadfield's 2013 visit.

The U.S. and Russia have also committed to funding the space station until 2024. But the space station's other key partners, the European Space Agency and JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, have not yet committed themselves beyond 2020.

Canada also announced Tuesday that it will provide:

  • Continuing technical support for the space station's Canadarm2 robot arm, its robot "handyman" Dextre, and the mobile base that supports them, through $10.5 million for Richmond, B.C.-based MDA.
  • Canada's contribution to the Mars Curiosity rover for another two years.
  • Four new Canadian science experiments on the space station this fall that will test the effects of weightlessness on the human body and look into health issues caused by space travel.

With a file from the Canadian Press

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