As the longest serving astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency — he was selected in May 2009 — former CF-18 fighter pilot Col. Jeremy Hansen has fulfilled many duties in support of the CSA and NASA.
“My role has kind of evolved over time,” Hansen told SpaceQ. Due to his many public appearances in Canada, the US and the world as a Canadian astronaut, “I feel like I’ve become a bit of a Space Ambassador to help people understand what’s possible [and] to share different strategies that are working with respect to commercialization in space,” he said. “This has become a passion project for me.”
Beyond spreading the good word about space, Hansen is involved in the development of ‘Connected Care Medical Modules’ to take care of astronauts in flight. He is also training to be an Artemis mission CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator, the direct radio link between Mission Control and astronauts in space). This role allowed him to have a front seat during the recent unmanned Artemis I mission to the Moon.
“Having a few opportunities to sit in Mission Control while the Orion capsule was on its way to the Moon, orbiting the Moon, and then on its way home was pretty spectacular,” said Hansen. “Of course, the CAPCOM console is all about supporting the astronauts on a vehicle, and we didn’t have any astronauts on that vehicle, as we all know. So the CAPCOM console didn’t have any official roles, but what we do have to do is understand how we are going to integrate with the team the next time when we do have astronauts on board the vehicle.”
Based on the success of the Artemis I mission — “it went a lot smoother than I think anyone could realistically expect for a first test flight” — Hansen expects the manned Artemis II moon shot to take place sometime in 2024. “It’s very exciting for us at the Canadian Space Agency because we know we’re going to have a Canadian astronaut on Artemis II, which is amazing,” he said. “And I think what’s really important is for Canadians to understand that they should be really proud that we were invited to participate in Artemis II.”
Canada has been given this seat due to the “real value” this country brings to NASA through technology like the Space Shuttle’s Canadarm, the International Space Station’s Canadarm2, and now Canadarm3 for the Moon-orbiting Gateway space station, he explained. “Developing space robotics for deep space is a very different problem than Low Earth Orbit space robotics,” said Hansen. “You get one shot at it: You send your robotic arm out there and it just has to work.”
Fortunately, Canada has “the track record and the technology and the expertise to take on that problem,” he said. As well, “we’ve recently announced that we’ll be sending a rover to the Moon to help with the Artemis program and understanding how we will explore in the South Polar region of the Moon.”
Both of these are major contributions to NASA’s Moon and Mars missions, and explain why, “as a credible partner, we’ve been invited to fly on Artemis II,” said Hansen. Again, “I hope Canadians are proud of that, and I hope it makes them understand that we can do some incredible things if we just set big goals.”
As for which Canadian astronaut will be flying on Artemis II, plus an ISS mission coming up in 2025? “All of these things are fluid, and that’s why no decisions have been made yet,” said Hansen. He expects those astronaut assignments to be made “in the next first half of next year or earlier.”