ANALYSIS | Jeremy Hansen’s flight around the moon is a continuation of Canada’s participation in the space program | CBC Radio

ANALYSIS | Jeremy Hansen’s flight around the moon is a continuation of Canada’s participation in the space program | CBC Radio

Earlier this week, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency announced that Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen will be part of the crew of the historic Artemis II mission to orbit the moon.

This flight can be seen as part of a continuous history for Canada in space, reaching back more than six decades.

Canada has been part of space exploration since the beginning, as the fourth country to have a presence in space. The Soviet Union was first with its satellite Sputnik in 1957. The U.S. followed the next year with Explorer 1. The British flew Ariel 1 in 1962, and Canada was next with Lark 1 that same year. However, both of the latter satellites rode American rockets.

In 1962 Canada’s Alouette 1 research satellite became the third satellite in orbit (© Canadian Space Agency)

Interestingly, the other first satellites have fallen out of their orbits and burned up in the atmosphere, while Alouette is still up there. After ten years of operation it was switched off, but it rides in such a high orbit that it remains in space. When we put something up, it stays up!

When Canada cancelled the Avro Arrow supersonic jet program, many scientists and engineers who had been working on the project went to NASA to participate in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs that eventually brought American astronauts to the moon.

A model of the Avro Arrow hangs by strings from the ceiling.
A model of the Avro Arrow hanging at a museum. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Our famous Canadarm remote manipulator system was carried aboard space shuttles to launch satellites — including the Hubble Space Telescope — that attach modules to the space station and act as a cherry picker support for astronauts who rode the end of the arm during space walks.

Canadarm2 is a permanent feature of the space station, along with its “hand” Dexterwhich is used to attach space station modules and assist in repair work.

We see a close up shot from below of David Saint-Jacques looking out a window at the Canadarm2 aboard the ISS.
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques looks out at the Canadarm2 during his 2019 mission on the International Space Station. (Canadian Space Agency/NASA)

Hansen is the tenth Canadian astronaut to be selected for space flight since our first Canadian in space, Marc Garneau, flew on space shuttle Columbia in 1984. Chris Hadfield is the only Canadian to become the commander of the International Space Station.

Canada has also contributed to space science with satellites such as the Radarsat constellation, which uses radar to map the surface of the Earth in fine detail regardless of cloud cover or time of day.

Marc Garneau squints as he looks into a scientific instrument in the tight quarters of the Challenger space shuttle.
Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau conducts an experiment onboard Challenger during Mission STS-41G in 1984. He was the first Canadian astronaut to go to space. (NASA)

We even have a scientific instrument on the surface of Mars, aboard the Curiosity rover, which examines rocks to determine their chemical makeup as part of the search for life on the red planet.

This long history of Canada’s role in space exploration will continue with our astronauts venturing to the moon, and a new Canadarm3 that will be part of the planned Gateway space station to be built in orbit around the moon. We are also developing a lunar rover that will prospect for ice in the lunar soil.

The astronauts chosen for the Artemis II Moon mission are standing on stage in front of a large crowd. There are large photos of each of the astronauts displayed on above the stage.
On stage from left, Jeremy Hansen, Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman and Christina Koch, stand together as they are announced as the Artemis II crew during a NASA ceremony in Houston, on Monday, April 3, 2023. (Michael Wyke/AP)

Canada has been something of a silent partner in the space program. We don’t make a lot of noise because we don’t build the big rockets. But we have been along for the ride since the beginning with our scientists, technology and astronauts. And if humans move on to Mars, it’s a good bet that Canada will be there too.

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