CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen talks upcoming lunar mission at campus event

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen shared insight into his upcoming journey to the Moon at a stellar space talk on March 27.

Originally a farm boy from Ontario, Hansen has gone on to become many things: a fighter pilot, academic, astronaut and even aquanaut. His space preparation has taken him to Earthly extremes, including a week-long stint living underground and another at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Hansen’s next adventure will take him into orbit.

In 2025, Hansen will join NASA astronauts on the Artemis II mission, where he will be sent into orbit around the Moon on the first crewed flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. He will be the first Canadian astronaut to venture around the Moon.

Hansen live-streamed to an audience of eager space nerds at an event hosted by the UBC Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Outer Space Institute and the Canadian Space Agency. His talk explored his achievements and impending trip to space.

Shooting for the moon

Hansen and his fellow crewmates – Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover and Christina Koch — will spend ten days in a minivan-sized capsule that will orbit around the moon and back to Earth.

This mission will be the furthest humans have ventured into space since the Apollo 13 Mission in the 1970s. Space enthusiasts may recognize the journey as a combination of Apollo Missions 7 and 8.

To put things into perspective, the Moon is a thousand times farther than the International Space Station. Bigger space distances mean bigger rockets.

The Artemis II Mission will be accomplished through the most elegant and exciting space tech to date: the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket which will launch the astronauts into orbit from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre and the Orion Spacecraft, also called the capsule, which will house the crew during their journey.

The European Space Agency has laid out a dozen major milestones necessary for mission success, including a “lunar flyby” and a final “splashdown” of the crew’s capsule in the Pacific Ocean. The Mission will aim to achieve a maximum altitude of 8,889 km from the Moon’s surface.

The human body will be an important subject of this Mission, as the ability of technology to remove waste, sustain breathable air and protect the crew from radiation is critical. We have little data about how short-term journeys deeper into space impact the human body, explained Hansen.

Beyond this mission, their overarching goal is a thousand times deeper into space.

“We filter everything through Mars architecture — What can we do on this journey to the moon that will help us get ready to go to Mars?” said Hansen. They hope that one small step to the Moon can inform giant leaps deeper into space.

A lunar learning experience

When asked by an audience member how to pursue a career as an astronaut, Hansen centered four main tenets: academics, operational skills (like decision making and risk management), team skills and physical fitness.

According to Hansen, the support of Indigenous communities and knowledge keepers has been incredibly important in preparing him for this journey.

He proudly pointed to his mission patch, created by Henry Guimond, an Anishinaabe artist based in Manitoba. It features the Seven Sacred Laws, ancestral values aimed at living in harmony with Mother Earth. Part of his training also included vision quests embarked alongside Sagkeeng First Nation AnishinaabeIndigenous leaders in Manitoba with the Turtle Lodge International Centre for Indigenous Education and Wellness, where he spent time reflecting and connecting with nature and spiritual teachings.

Hansen also touched on the value of failure. In his presentation, he queued up a video of a SpaceX rocket being launched into the sky, gloriously flying for a few seconds — before crashing down to Earth. SpaceX is working with NASA to develop technology that will land humans on the Moon in the Artemis III and IV Missions.

Hansen celebrated the incremental steps made toward progress, rather than the ones that faltered along the way.

The Artemis II Mission is slated for launch no earlier than September 2025.