Jeremy Hansen pathway to the stars

3 April 2023

Today, at NASA Johnson Space Center's Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, NASA announced the selection of Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Jeremy Hansen on the team of astronauts who will fly around the Moon on the Artemis II mission. This will be the first crewed flight test of the Orion spacecraft launching on the SLS rocket. Hansen will be the first Canadian to ever venture to the Moon.

Former RCAF fighter pilot Jeremy Hansen, scheduled to be the only Canadian to leave earth’s orbit on the first U.S. National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) crewed lunar mission since the final Apollo mission in 1972, has had his eyes on space for as long as he can recall.

The 47-year-Canadian Space Agency astronaut is scheduled to join three U.S. astronauts for the November 2024 launch from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida of the Artemis II mission of NASA’s Orion spacecraft. The concept was proven with an uncrewed 25-day Artemis I mission launched in mid-November 2022.

Hansen and his American crewmates will orbit the moon 10 times before returning home. An actual landing has been assigned to the as-yet-unnamed crew of Artemis III, scheduled for December 2025. That’s generally considered a major step toward a permanent lunar base and a proposed Lunar Gateway orbital station which could be used as a stepping stone toward a NASA crewed mission to Mars. Nevertheless, at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, Hansen said that the fact that “a Canadian is going to the moon […] is glorious.” He also said he is “left in awe of being reminded what strong leadership, setting big goals, with a passion to collaborate and a can-do attitude can achieve, and we are going to the moon together.”

Crew assignments for the Artemis II astronauts are (clockwise from top): Pilot Victor Glover; Mission Specialist 2 Jeremy Hansen; Commander Reid Wiseman; and Mission Specialist 1 Christina Hammock Koch.

This is the latest phase in a career that began at the age of 12 when Hansen joined 614 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron, earning his Air Cadet glider pilot wings at age 16. A year later, he earned his private pilot license and wings. He was accepted to Royal Military College Saint-Jean in Quebec, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in honours space science from the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario

According to the CSA, Colonel Hansen credits Air Cadets with developing the discipline and self-confidence required to be accepted for Officer Training in the Canadian Armed Forces. 

He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and completed fighter training in 2003 on Boeing CF-188 Hornets at Cold Lake, Alberta, at 410 Tactical Fighter Operational Training Squadron, before becoming Combat Operations Officer at 4 Wing Cold Lake where he oversaw NORAD and Arctic flying before selected by the CSA in 2009 through the agency’s third astronaut recruitment program.

For the next 5 years, Colonel Hansen served as a CF-18 fighter pilot with 441 Tactical Fighter Squadron and 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron as well as the Combat Operations Officer at 4 Wing Operations where his responsibilities included effectiveness of NORAD Operations, Deployed Exercises and Arctic Flying Operations. 

Given the RCAF motto: sic itur ad astra, which translates to “such is the pathway to the stars,” it was liftoff for what could be considered a textbook profile of how to get where he is today.

“For as long as I can remember, I was fascinated by space exploration,” he recalled in a 2014 interview. “I looked at a photograph of Neil Armstrong standing on the moon (in 1969), and I wanted to see what it would be like to leave this planet, to look at it from beyond.”

In 2009, Colonel Hansen was one of two recruits selected to join the Canadian Space Agency Astronaut program.

He graduated from Astronaut Candidate Training in 2011 and began working at NASA Mission Control as “capcom”, the communications voice between ground control and the International Space Station. 

In 2013, Hansen participated in the European Space Agency's CAVES program in Sardinia, Italy, during which he lived underground for six days. Another highlight of 2013 was flying the 1950's-era Golden Hawk demonstrator aircraft.

The following year, he was a crewmember of NEEMO 19, where he lived and worked on the ocean floor in the Aquarius habitat off Key Largo, Florida, for seven days simulating deep-space exploration. 

In 2017, Hansen became the first Canadian to lead a NASA astronaut class in charge of training astronaut candidates from the United States and Canada, and now, at the age of 47, Colonel Hansen will be orbiting the Moon with the Artemis II Mission. This is the second step in NASA's mission to return astronauts to the surface of the moon.

Canada's seat on Artemis II is due to the long-running CSA involvement in NASA operations, notably the Canadarm robotics on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station as well as Canada’s contributions to the Lunar Gateway. Canada also will supply a lunar rover being designed Ontario-based Canadensys Aerospace Corporation with $1.2 billion in federal development funding.

“In addition to building Canada’s first lunar vehicle, we are also currently leading a Canadian industrial team that has been contracted by the government to develop options and a strategy for the next phase of Lunar Surface Exploration vehicle activities,” Canadensys CEO Christian Sallaberger said March 29. “A multi-functional lunar utility vehicle is a logical next step based on technical readiness, human lunar mission needs, as well as the potential for significant follow-on commercial export sales.”

Like Hansen, Sallaberger has had a career-long interest in space, with strong ties to the European and U.S. aerospace sectors. With a doctorate in aerospace science and engineering from the University of Toronto, he also is a former vice-president and director of space exploration at MDA, a global leader in space robotics, and before that held a number of positions in the CSA, including manager of strategic development.

The Artemis II astronaut team is made up of three Americans and one Canadian. The team will orbit the moon for 10 days in the Orion spacecraft, testing key components to prepare for Artemis III which will land on the moon in 2025 for the first time since 1972.

Ken Pole