Community over the moon as London’s Jeremy Hansen to be first Canadian in deep space

Click to play video: 'Astronaut Jeremy Hansen will be 1st Canadian to orbit the moon'
Astronaut Jeremy Hansen will be 1st Canadian to orbit the moon
WATCH: Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen will join the Artemis II moon mission next year as a mission specialist, making him the first non-American to leave Earth’s orbit. Hansen said at a Monday NASA announcement that Canada’s partnership in the mission can be credited to American leadership and Canada’s “can do” attitude – Apr 3, 2023

Community members are over the moon as London, Ont.-born astronaut Jeremy Hansen will soon prepare for lift-off in making Canadian space history as the first non-American to venture into deep space in the Artemis 11 mission next year.

The 47-year-old mission specialist will be one of four astronauts in the 10-day mission set to launch in November 2024, according to NASA and the Canadian Space Agency.

The other members assigned for the mission include Christina Hammock Koch, Victor Glover and G. Reid Wiseman, all American.

This photo provided by NASA shows, from left, NASA Astronauts Christina Koch, Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman, and Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Jeremy Hansen at the Johnson Space Center in Houston on March 29, 2023. On Monday, April 3, 2023, NASA announced them as the crew who will be the first to fly the Orion capsule, launching atop a Space Launch System rocket from Kennedy Space Center no earlier than late 2024. They will not land or even go into lunar orbit, but rather fly around the moon and head straight back to Earth, a prelude to a lunar landing by two others a year later. (Josh Valcarcel/NASA via AP)

“There are two reasons why a Canadian is going to the moon… the first one is American leadership,” Hansen said on Monday. “It is not lost on any of us that the United States could choose to go back to the moon by themselves. But America has made a very deliberate choice over decades to curate a global team, and that, in my definition, is true leadership.

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“Our scientists, our engineers, the Canadian Space Agency, the Canadian Armed Forces across government, all of our leadership working together … have added up to this moment where a Canadian is going to the moon with our international partnership, and it is glorious,” he continued.

“At the end of it all, I am 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. Let’s go.”

According to officials, astronauts last visited the moon in December 1972, closing out the Apollo program. In total, 24 men — all Americans — have visited the moon and only half of those have walked on it.

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Gordon Osinski, a professor of earth and planetary science at Western University, told Global News that “this mission is going to be huge.”

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“This is the next big step in returning humans to the surface of the moon, (and) this will be the first ever mission that will have a crew in the Orion spacecraft,” he said. “If you remember back to November, that was the Artemis I mission, and it was completely un-crewed so no people on board.”

Click to play video: 'NASA’s Artemis mission test flight blasts off toward the moon'
NASA’s Artemis mission test flight blasts off toward the moon

In regards to the upcoming mission, he said that “Canada is moving into a new chapter of space exploration.”

Prior to Hansen being selected as a part of the Artemis II mission, Osinski said that he would be a “fantastic” choice.

“Jeremy has been in the astronaut program for a long time, and he’s a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, so I think he’d be ideally suited,” he said.

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According to the Government of Canada, Hansen began his journey into aviation at 12 years old when he joined the 614 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron in London.

London mayor Josh Morgan said that he was “ecstatic” when he heard the news of Hansen being selected to take part in this historic mission, saying that “this is something that will inspire countless individuals in the community, while also serving as a source of substantial civic pride.”

“Mr. Hansen has always been a remarkable ambassador, and I couldn’t be happier for him and his family,” Morgan continued in a statement. “On behalf of all Londoners, we congratulate him on this remarkable achievement and will be watching with great excitement next year when he makes Canadian outer space exploration history.”

Though born in London, Hansen was raised on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ont. North Middlesex mayor Brian Ropp told Global News that he wasn’t surprised to hear the news on Monday.

“He joined the Canadian Space Agency in 2009 and he’s been very dedicated to that program and worked very hard to get to where he is today. So, congratulations to him and his whole family,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau praises Canadian Astronaut Jeremy Hansen on making space history'
Trudeau praises Canadian Astronaut Jeremy Hansen on making space history

In reacting to the news, Ropp shared a story as “a comment to his character.”

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“The last time he was here at home, he spoke to the youth in Parkhill and Ailsa Craig at a couple of events that were going on at the time. There was a lot of people, of course, wanting pictures taken with him and everything, but he was laser-focused at delivering his speech to the youth of the community.

“He’s really an example of if you work hard enough, you can do anything,” he added. “He knew what he wanted from a very young age. He flew gliders as soon as it was legal for him to do it. So he was very focused on what he wanted to do and now he’s going to reach his pinnacle of where he wanted to go.”

Ropp said that as a community, the excitement is just going to build as Hansen prepares for lift off next November.

“In a community of around 1,000, who would’ve thought that something like this could happen and all I can say is that it’s just incredible,” he said. “It’s going to be very exciting for him and for the community.”

– with files from Global News’ Aaron D’Andrea, Saba Aziz and The Canadian Press.

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