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A Canadian astronaut will be on NASA’s Artemis deep space lunar orbit

Click to play video 'Canadian astronaut to join Artemis 2 mission to the moon in 2023' Canadian astronaut to join Artemis 2 mission to the moon in 2023
Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains announced on Wednesday that a Canadian astronaut will join Artemis 2 mission to the moon launching in 2023, making Canada the second country in the world to have an astronaut in deep space after the U.S – Dec 16, 2020

One Canadian astronaut will be joining a record-setting voyage into deep space around the moon in the second phase of NASA’s Artemis program, expected to launch in 2023.

The major new public-private space program has the ambitious goal of taking humans back to the lunar surface — including the first woman to land on the moon — and keeping them there.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains made the announcement on Wednesday, saying the Canadian and American governments have signed a new treaty outlining Canadian participation in the Artemis missions and locking in a seat for a Canadian astronaut on the 2023 launch.

That agreement will make Canada the second country in history to have an astronaut travel into deep space and fly around the moon, and also locks in a second flight for a Canadian to the Lunar Gateway station which is still yet to be built.

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Click to play video 'NASA Artemis lunar mission to include Canadian astronaut' NASA Artemis lunar mission to include Canadian astronaut
NASA Artemis lunar mission to include Canadian astronaut – Dec 16, 2020

In an interview with Global News, Bains said he also isn’t ruling out the possibility of getting Canadians on future missions as well, including potentially the Artemis III moon landing voyage.

“I won’t close the door on that. We’re still fairly optimistic. We want to continue to build on the momentum that we have when it comes to the investments we made in our space program,” he said.

I’m very excited and over the moon.”

The Canadian government has pledged $1.9 billion to the Lunar Gateway project, which Bains said includes the cost of the seats on the Artemis II mission and to the Lunar Gateway itself.

The Canadian Space Agency has four active Canadian astronauts working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center: Jeremy Hansen, Joshua Kutryk, Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons and David Saint-Jacques.

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“I’m very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for Canada,” said Jeremy Hansen in a discussion among the astronauts that took place along with the announcement.

Hansen compared the mission’s significance with the Apollo 8 mission.

Click to play video 'NASA, Canada signs ‘gateway treaty’ for space exploration collaboration' NASA, Canada signs ‘gateway treaty’ for space exploration collaboration
NASA, Canada signs ‘gateway treaty’ for space exploration collaboration – Dec 16, 2020

“This time when we return to the moon, our eyes are fixed back on our planet and the challenges that face us here,” he said, emphasizing the huge amount of collaboration involved in the missions.

“That same collaboration is needed as we tackle big global challenges like climate change.”

Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons also emphasized the scientific potential of the missions.

She said research on water and ice distribution on the moon, as well as being able to study implications of space environments for medical research and environmental science, will play a key part in helping shape the way forward towards travel further into the solar system.

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“It means Canadians will be there to help facilitate all that future science,” she said.

“It’s wonderful Canada gets to be part of the most exciting part of this new venture.”

Bains added the voyages will offer “enormous opportunities” for Canadians to do cutting edge research and science on two key issues.

“The two areas that we will focus on is the environment and looking at the impact of climate change on the Earth’s atmosphere, as well as biomedical technologies,” he said.

“Now, more than ever with COVID-19, we know how important it is to look at cutting edge research when it comes to the health care challenges that we’re facing.”

READ MORE: Canada poised to unveil ‘significant’ role in upcoming NASA Artemis lunar mission

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NASA put the first men on the moon in the 1960s and 1970s but hasn’t returned since.

The American space shuttle program collapsed in 2011 in the wake of the Challenger and Columbia disasters, and a lack of sustained funding for the program and its shuttles.

Click to play video 'SpaceX launches astronaut crew in 1st operational mission for NASA' SpaceX launches astronaut crew in 1st operational mission for NASA
SpaceX launches astronaut crew in 1st operational mission for NASA – Nov 15, 2020

However, an injection of money and technology from the private sector, as well as renewed political and strategic interest in space exploration, has spurred a major revival in recent years.

The Artemis missions have three core phases: Artemis I, Artemis II and Artemis III.

Artemis I will be an uncrewed maiden flight of the new Space Launch System and the Orion orbiter.

Artemis II, which will include a Canadian astronaut, will be the first crewed test flight of the system and orbiter, lasting 10 days and setting a new record for the farthest human travel from the Earth as four astronauts circle the moon twice before returning to land.

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Artemis III, expected to take place in 2024, will launch the first woman and next man to the surface of the moon using a new lunar landing system.

Lisa Campbell, president of the Canadian Space Agency, said the country has a “strong core” of astronauts ready to join the mission, but that there is no decision yet on who will be on the missions.

Click to play video 'SpaceX launches astronaut crew in 1st operational mission for NASA' SpaceX launches astronaut crew in 1st operational mission for NASA
SpaceX launches astronaut crew in 1st operational mission for NASA – Nov 15, 2020