NASA and Canadian Space Agency to introduce the four astronauts — three from the U.S., one from Canada — who will steer the next stage of an ambitious plan to establish a long-term presence on the moon
WASHINGTON — Ask Marc Garneau if he’d go back to space and the first Canadian to ever make the trip doesn’t hesitate: “In a wink.”
It’s another matter entirely, of course, whether the now-retired former astronaut and Quebec MP — at 74, he finally gave up his seat in the House of Commons just three weeks ago — still has the right stuff.
“You always wonder, when you reach a certain age, whether you would still have that capability that you had when you were younger,” said Garneau, who flew three Space Shuttle missions between 1984 and 2001.
“Having flown three times, I consider myself blessed beyond any reasonable expectation in life.”
Now the country’s pre-eminent “elder statesman” of space, Garneau has long waited for the day when he’ll be joined in the pantheon of pioneering explorers by the next astronaut to earn the “first Canadian” honorific.
Who will it be? The world finds out Monday.
That’s when NASA and the Canadian Space Agency will introduce the four astronauts — three from the U.S., one from Canada — who will steer the next stage of an ambitious plan to establish a long-term presence on the moon.
Scheduled to blast off as early as November 2024, Artemis II will be the first crewed mission to the moon since the final Apollo mission took flight in 1972. It will also be the first time a Canadian has ventured beyond Earth’s orbit.
Canada’s astronaut corps currently comprises four people, including David Saint-Jacques, an astrophysicist and medical doctor from Montreal and the only member of the group who’s already been to space.
Saint-Jacques, 53, flew to the International Space Station in 2018. He was selected for the corps in 2009 alongside Jeremy Hansen, 47, of London, Ont., a colonel and CF-18 pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Joining them in 2017 were test pilot and Air Force Lt.-Col. Joshua Kutryk, 41, from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., and Jennifer Sidey, 34, a mechanical engineer and Cambridge University lecturer from Calgary.
“I’m not in any way jealous or envious,” Garneau said. “I’m just so excited that we are now taking Canada on what I would say is a major, major step forward.”
It’s not quite the giant leap of 1969, but it’s close — about 7,400 kilometres away, to be precise.
The four Artemis astronauts will encircle their home planet before sling-shotting into deep space for a figure-8 manoeuvre around the moon, making Canada and the U.S. the only two countries to ever pass over the dark side of the lunar surface.
“When I think back on 1984, when I first flew, we didn’t know what might happen after that,” Garneau said.
“To now have the opportunity for Canada to be only the second country to have an astronaut go on a lunar mission — this is extraordinary.”
It’s also the product of a tremendous amount of hard work and investment, said Western University professor Gordon Osinski, director of the school’s Institute for Earth and Space Exploration.
Osinski spent the bulk of last week in Houston, taking part in simulated spacewalks to better learn and understand how best to conduct the geological work future astronauts will be required to do on the lunar surface.
While that research isn’t directly related to Artemis, it’s bound to be a key factor down the road as the ultimate mission continues to evolve into something that will bear little resemblance to its Apollo ancestors.
“I can do field geology on Earth with a Star Trek-like instrument that tells me the chemistry of a rock. It wasn’t even imagined 50 years ago,” Osinski said.
“So as we progress in the whole Artemis program, I think you’ll really see 21st-century space exploration like we might imagine from Star Trek and things.”
Even now, Osinski is still incredulous that Canada managed to secure a spot on Artemis II — and he credits everything from the country’s geographical and economic ties with the U.S. to the ongoing work of the Canadian astronaut corps.
Then there’s the Canadarm, the articulated remote manipulators that became a fixture of Space Shuttle and International Space Station missions and a point of national pride for countless Canadians of a certain age.
“The U.S. has let go and said, ‘OK, Canada, we trust you enough that we’ll literally put the lives of our astronauts in your hand,”’ Osinski said.
“So that trust maybe goes a long way to explain how we did it.”
The plan is to put a man and woman on the moon in 2025 in service of the ultimate goal: eventually dispatching astronauts to Mars. And Canada is expected to play a critical role going forward.
“We’re going back to the moon. The moon, that’s a big thing,” Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said last week.
“This is Canada on the world stage, doing big things.”
That, ultimately, could be Artemis II’s biggest legacy for Canada: inspiring the next generation of astronauts in much the same way that Apollo did all those years ago.
This time, though, the visuals will be spectacular.
“As much as we get excited about robots and the Canadarm and things, having a personal experience in that could be a huge moment and a big milestone for the Canadian space program,” Osinski said.
“There’s just something about having an astronaut do that.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2023.
This Tuesday, the crew of the second-ever all-private mission to the International Space Station will be returning to Earth. The Axiom 2 or Ax-2 mission launched last week and saw private astronauts Peggy Whitson, John Shoffner, Ali Alqarni, and Rayyanah Barnawi traveling to the ISS on a SpaceX Crew Dragon launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Axiom Mission 2 Undocks From the International Space Station (Official NASA Broadcast)
Now, the crew of four will be traveling back to Earth in the same Crew Dragon, and NASA will be livestreaming the departure of the spacecraft from the station. A separate stream will also be available showing the Crew Dragon splashing down off the coast of Florida. We’ve got the details on how to watch both below.
How to watch the mission departure
Coverage of the departure of the Crew Dragon from the ISS will begin at 9 a.m. ET (6 a.m. PT) on Tuesday, May 30. NASA will show a short introduction before the closing of the hatch of the station’s Harmony module at 9:10 a.m. ET (6:10 a.m. PT). There will then be a short break in coverage, which will resume at 10:45 a.m. ET (7:45 a.m. PT) to show the undocking of the Dragon at 11:05 a.m. ET (8:05 a.m. PT), with coverage ending 30 minutes after undocking.
You can watch the livestream of the hatch closing and the undocking on NASA’s YouTube channel, or by using the video embedded near the top of this page.
The crew will then travel back to Earth throughout Tuesday and into Wednesday, May 31. When the Crew Dragon is approaching Earth for splashdown, you’ll be able to tune into a livestream from Axiom Space. That will be available on Axiom’s website, but the company has not yet confirmed the exact time that coverage is expected to begin on Wednesday. You can find the latest updates on Axiom Twitter.
What to expect from the mission departure
The Ax-2 crew will have spent 10 days in space before heading home, and they will be bringing around 300 pounds of cargo back with them. The mission is notable for including the first two astronauts from Saudi Arabia, Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, as well as famous American astronaut Peggy Whitson who has spent more days in space than any other American or any other woman.
Axiom Space launched its first private mission to the ISS in April last year, with a third mission planned for November this year and a fourth planned for 2024.
Pluto was once considered the ninth planet in the solar system
Space agency NASA routinely captures stunning images of our universe, leaving space lovers mesmerized. On Sunday, NASA shared a stunning image on Instagram taken by its New Horizons spacecraft showing a heart-shaped glacier on Pluto’s surface. The heart-shaped region is known unofficially as Tombaugh Regio and is made of nitrogen and methane.
The image was captioned as ”Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Our New Horizons spacecraft captured this heart-shaped glacier. It lies on Pluto’s surface, which also features mountains, cliffs, valleys, craters, and plains, thought to be made of methane and nitrogen ice ”
See the image here:
It described the image as ”Pluto’s surface is marked with cracks and craters in shades of brown. The partially visible heart appears in the lower right of the small world, which is surrounded by black space.”
New Horizons launched in January 2006 and reached Pluto in July 2015, flying within 7,800 miles of its surface, and becoming the first probe to fly by Pluto and its moons. The far-traveling spacecraft also visited a distant Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule (2014 MU69) in January 2019.
Instagram users loved the picture and shared a variety of comments. One user wrote, ”Wouahh what a great capture, thanks to New Horizon spacecraft.” Another commented, ”For me, Pluto will always be a planet.”
A third said, ”Why is Pluto, not a plane? it literally has a heart!” A fourth added, ”Being afar doesn’t mean you aren’t part of the family.”
Pluto was once considered the ninth planet in the solar system, however, it was demoted in 2006 and reclassified as a dwarf planet. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) downgraded the status of Pluto to that of a dwarf planet because it did not meet the three criteria the IAU uses to define a full-sized planet.
Pluto is slightly over 1,400 miles (2250 km) wide or about half the breadth of the United States or two-thirds the width of the Moon. With its average temperature of -387F (-232C) – Pluto’s surface is coated in ice made of water, methane, and nitrogen and is believed to have a rocky core and possibly a deep ocean.
Illustration of the Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS) concept. Credit NASA/JPL-CalTech
The second all-private astronaut mission to the space station …
Completing the set of tiny severe weather trackers …
And a robotic explorer – with a twist …
A few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="
Established in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Its vision is "To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity." Its core values are "safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence, and inclusion." NASA conducts research, develops technology and launches missions to explore and study Earth, the solar system, and the universe beyond. It also works to advance the state of knowledge in a wide range of scientific fields, including Earth and space science, planetary science, astrophysics, and heliophysics, and it collaborates with private companies and international partners to achieve its goals.
Second Private Astronaut Mission to the Space Station
On May 21, a <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="
Commonly known as SpaceX, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company that was founded by Elon Musk in 2002. Headquartered in Hawthorne, California, the company designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. SpaceX's ultimate goal is to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars.
The four-person crew, commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, is scheduled to spend several days conducting research, outreach, and commercial activities on the space station.
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 1 at Māhia, New Zealand at 11:46 a.m, on May 25, 2023, carrying two TROPICS CubeSats for NASA. Credit: Rocket Lab
Final Pair of Storm-Observing CubeSats Launched
The final two CubeSats for NASA’s TROPICS mission launched from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand on May 26. The small satellites will join two other identical spacecraft that launched to orbit earlier this month.
All four will fly, as a constellation, in a unique low Earth orbit that will allow them to observe tropical cyclones, including hurricanes and typhoons, more often than what is possible with current weather satellites.
Team members from JPL test a snake robot called EELS at a ski resort in the Southern California mountains in February. Designed to sense its environment, calculate risk, travel, and gather data without real-time human input, EELS could eventually explore destinations throughout the solar system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Although it was inspired by a desire to look for signs of life in the sub-surface ocean on <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="
Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and has the second-largest mass in the Solar System. It has a much lower density than Earth but has a much greater volume. Saturn's name comes from the Roman god of wealth and agriculture.
” data-gt-translate-attributes=”["attribute":"data-cmtooltip", "format":"html"]”>Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus, EELS is not currently part of any NASA mission.
NASA completed a crucial hot fire test of the RS-25 engine, part of a 12-test certification series for future Artemis missions. This achievement brings NASA one step closer to landing the first woman and person of color on the Moon, as well as establishing a long-term lunar presence. Credit: NASA / Stennis