A Canadian astronaut will be on Artemis 2, becoming the second nation to send humans into deep space (but not on foot to the moon)

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) recently announced that a Canadian astronaut will fly as part of the crew Artemis II. This mission, scheduled for 2023, will see an Orion space capsule perform a circular flight where it flies around the Moon without landing. This will be the first of two crew opportunities that NASA will offer Canadian astronauts on Artemis missions (according to the agreement).

This circumlunary flight will open the way to Artemis III mission in 2024, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface for the first time in over 50 years. The announcement was made last week (Wednesday, December 16) by Navdeep Bain and Lisa Cambell, the Canadian Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry and the President of the CSA, respectively.

This mission will be a historic event, as only American astronauts have ever traveled beyond Earth’s orbit, which has not happened since the closing days of the Apollo era in 1972. The mission will make Canada the second nation in the world to send a astronaut around the moon.

The artistic impression of an Orion space capsule flying around the Moon. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Selected astronauts will also have the honor of being part of the record-setting mission for the farthest human journey beyond the far side of the moon. While Artemis II will be the first of two Artemis missions to include a Canadian astronaut, the second flight will be to the Moon Gate once it is assembled (by 2030).

This agreement is in line with the long-standing tradition of cooperation between Canada and the United States, which began in the early days of the space age. In terms of human spaceflight, Canada has built the Canadarm space shuttle program. This was followed by the installation of Canadarm2 on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001, which played a vital role in the construction of the station.

Which of the astronauts in Canada will remain TBD, but will be one of the four active CSA astronauts – who were also present at the announcement. They include:

  • Col. Jeremy Hansen: Former fighter pilot and combat operations officer (COO) of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Hansen was born in London, Ontario, in 1974. He was selected by the CSA in May 2009, through the third Canadian campaign astronaut recruitment and is one of 14 members of NASA’s 20th class astronaut.
  • Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons: Born in Calgary, Alberta in 1988, Sidney-Gibbons is a former mechanical engineer and assistant professor of internal combustion engines at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering. On July 1St., 2017 (Canada’s 150of anniversary) was recruited by CSA as one of the two new astronauts.
  • Lt. Colonel Joshua Kutryk: Born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, in 1982, Kutryk is a mechanical engineer and former RCAF test pilot / fighter. It was also selected by the CSA in 2017 through the fourth Canadian astronaut recruitment campaign.
  • David Saint-Jacques: Born in Saint-Lambert, Quebec, in 1970, Saint-Jacques is an engineer and astrophysicist. He is also an adjunct professor of family medicine at McGill University and a former physician and co-chief of medicine at the Inuulitsivik Health Center in Puvirnituq, Nunavik, where he oversaw the training of physicians. He joined the CSA in 2009 as part of NASA’s 20of spent 204 days aboard the ISS as part of Expedition 58/59 (December 2018 – June 2019).
Astronaut David Saint-Jacques takes a picture through a window in the ISS Dome. (Credit: CSA / NASA)

Canada will also be responsible for providing Lunar Gateway with its external robotics system, which will include Canadarm3 (a robotic system designed to operate autonomously). The Gateway collaboration agreement has been finalized as part of the astronaut’s agreement and also requires Canada to provide robotic interfaces to the Gateway modules.

Canadarm3 will also install the first two scientific tools at the Gateway. These will be a series of experiments for measuring the environment and radiation Heliophysics (HERMES) of NASA and the experiments ESA European Radiation Sensors Array (ERSA) – which will improve the weather forecast for astronauts. As Dan Hartman, manager of the Gateway program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said:

“CSA’s advanced contribution to robotics with Canadarm3 is based on our long history of spaceflight, enabling us to perform critical functions of long-term durability and maintainability, general inspections of the external Gateway and its attached vehicles, and servicing external payloads.” in support of our global research initiatives.

“Our efforts are underway on the Gateway to integrate the CSA robotics system with smaller arm attachments and dexterous adapters, already being incorporated into individual Gateway modules, including PPE (power and propulsion element), HALO (logistics outpost and logistics), Gateway logistics and international housing elements. “

The artist’s impression of an Orion spacecraft approaching the Lunar Gate. Credit: NASA

Gateway is a central element of NASA’s long-term goal of establishing a “sustainable monthly exploration program.” By 2030, it will include a surface element (Artemis base camp) located in the Aitken Basin of the South Pole, with craters and permanent shadow. NASA plans to launch the first two segments of the Gateway – a power and propulsion element (PPE) and a logistics and logistics outpost (HALO) – in 2023.

However, the station will not be used as a temporary habitat for astronauts to visit until other segments are delivered by the end of the decade. These will be provided by the CSA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Once operational, the Gateway will be associated with a reusable human landing system (HLS) that will allow astronauts to move to and from the lunar surface.

Together with the Artemis base camp, NASA and other agencies will be able to send missions to the moon for long periods of time. In the long run, the Gateway will be associated with Deep Space Transport (DST) which will allow manned missions to Mars and beyond. However, before anything can happen, NASA must validate Orion, Space Launch System (SLS) and other elements of the Artemis project for manned missions.

Artemis II The mission will be the first time astronauts go into space using a Orion space capsule, which was also launched without a crew. As Bain said, the mission “will allow us to continue our tradition of being a world leader in space exploration. It’s exciting. It is a beginning. And it gives us hope for the future in these challenging times. “

In a statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine praised the spirit of cooperation that exists between the two space agencies. This included Canada being the first international partner to commit to the Gateway program last year and one of the first groups of countries to sign the Artemis agreements last October. As he said:

“Canada was the first international partner to commit to advancing the Gateway in early 2019, they signed the Artemis agreements in October and now we are excited to formalize this partnership for monthly exploration. This agreement represents an evolution of our cooperation with CSA, providing the next generation of robotics that has supported decades of space missions on the space shuttle and the International Space Station, and now, for Artemis. “

The first test flight of SLS and Orion (Artemis I) an unmanned test flight of SLS / Orion is scheduled for November 2021. Artemis III, which will land the “first woman and next man” on the moon for the first time in more than 50 years, is currently scheduled for October 2024. There are doubts that NASA will be able to meet this accelerated timeline, which VP Pence announced in 2019 on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

Part of the problem is the budget. Currently, the US Congress has not approved the funding needed for FY2021 alone ($ 3.4 billion) to keep the project going. HLS, which has become indispensable since Lunar Gateway was disoriented in March last year, is still in the design phase. NASA announced the three companies competing for the development of an HLS (SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics) at the end of April.

The artist’s impression of SLS on his mobile launcher. Credit: NASA

There is also SLS, which has suffered several delays that have forced the date Artemis I to be pushed back several times at this time. And with a new administration taking office on January 20of, 2021, NASA may release the 2024 deadline, which could mean that its priorities will be shifted slightly in the next year.

But one thing that will not change is the commitment of NASA and its international partners (CSA, ESA, JAXA and maybe even Russia and China) to return to the moon in this decade (and to lay the foundations for a permanent human presence). NASA is also deep in the process of deciding who gets on the first crew Artemis mission and beyond.

During the same meeting, NASA presented the astronauts who will be part of the 18-member Artemis team. And, as Hansen said, any lucky CSA astronaut will continue Artemis II will do so on behalf of Canada and the astronaut team as a whole:

“We will all work to achieve this goal on behalf of Canada. One of the things that is really important to us as a body of astronauts is that we are a team and that we take on these great challenges together. We look for each other and it does not turn into a competitive process, but turns into a process in which we rise to the end. “

Additional readings: CSA, GODMOTHER, Online space policy, SpaceFlightNow