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‘It is glorious,’ says astronaut Jeremy Hansen, announced as 1st Canadian to 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.

“A Canadian is going to the moon with our international partnership, and it is glorious,” Hansen said at the announcement Monday from NASA Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field in Houston, Texas.

“We are going to the moon together. Let’s go.”

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.

WATCH | Astronaut announcement live:

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Astronauts will be part of the Artemis II mission, where they will orbit the moon

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.

Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen, left, and Joshua Kutryk, right, stand in their blue flight suits, with bright green grass in the background along with several NASA buildings.
Canadian astronauts Hansen, left, and Josh Kutryk talked to CBC about the Artemis I mission to the moon when NASA first attempted to launch Artemis I from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida last August. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

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 MDA.

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.

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.

WATCH | Meet Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen:

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.

Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen is in a grey diving suit in the ocean sitting atop a small black vehicle that propels him through the water.
Hansen operates the Mako, a diver delivery system, off the coast of Key Largo as part of NEEMO training in 2014. (ESA/Hervé Stevenin/Twitter)

Now, Hansen will spend his time training for his mission, which involves a spacecraft no human has ever flown in before.

Hansen has said he is proud of Canada’s role in heading back to the moon.

“I’m especially proud of Canada, that we have such amazing people, a country that put us in the spot where we can bring incredible and valuable contributions to the international partnership,” he told CBC News after the Artemis I launch in November. 

“That we’re part of going back to the moon. We’re going to have a Canadian on Artemis II. It’s incredible. I’m really proud of Canada for doing that.”

WATCH | Canada’s role in returning to the moon:

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Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen describes Canada’s key roles in new missions to the moon, from the ‘amazing technology’ to ‘niche’ expertise in the evolving delivery of food and health care.