A one-of-a-kind astronaut is encouraging students to reach for the stars ahead of his mission to the moon.
Ontario native Jeremy Hansen is part of the Artemis II space crew, set to circle the moon in late 2025, making him the first non-American astronaut to do so.
But before they head for space, Hansen and the crew are on a much shorter mission, as they speak to schools and communities across the country about their adventures.
On Thursday, Hansen was in Regina to visit the First Nations University of Canada, as well as the Saskatchewan Science Centre, talking about his mission.
“We want to show humanity that we can tackle big problems, not as one country but as an international collaboration,” Hansen said. “It is harder to work in collaboration, but once you overcome that challenge then you can do so much more.”
“The Artemis missions are a really beautiful example of nations from around the world to tackle really huge problems,” Hansen went on to say. “We’re pushing humanity by setting goals.”
For students in the crowd, it was an inspiring day.
“I was excited to see an astronaut … because I really want to be one,” Grade 5 student Darling Beaton said. “I learned it will be hard to be an astronaut, but don’t give up.”
Hansen was raised on a farm in Ontario. He became interested in space as a child when he was looking at photos of airplanes in a book and came across a photo of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
“I did one important thing: I said to people like my family and teachers that I was really interested in space, so I shared this dream of travelling to space,” he said. “Now when I look back, it was all these other people that helped me. It takes a team of people to do great things.”
Hansen first began his aviation journey when he became an air cadet at the age of 12. He went on to join the Canadian Armed Forces and attended the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in space science and a master’s degree in physics, he moved to Saskatchewan in 2001 to take pilot training in Moose Jaw.
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Hansen has been working with the Canadian Space Agency for 14 years and was asked to represent Canada on a mission to and around the moon about a year ago.
The mission will be led by NASA and features not only Hansen but also fellow Canadian Jenni Sidey-Gibbons. If Hansen is unable to take part in the mission, Sidey-Gibbons will become the astronaut to make the trip.
“This is just a stepping-stone in the Artemis program, which will eventually return humans to the surface of the moon, and we have our eye on Mars,” Hansen said.
Hansen will head to space wearing a mission patch designed by Anishinaabe artist Henry Guimond from the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba. In a social media post, Hansen said he would wear the patch “with humility as a way to recognize the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, the first explorers.”
“In the patch, you see the seven sacred laws, which are really instructions for us (and) reminders for us of what to aspire to as humans,” he said.
He went on to say the patch is an important reminder of how he would like to walk and the example he would like to represent.
The trip around the moon is expected to take 10 days and cover more than 10,000 kilometres. Liftoff is scheduled for September 2025 when the Orion spacecraft launches out of Florida.