Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen says he agrees with NASA’s plan to delay a long-awaited mission to the moon and return it until September 2025, saying such decisions require courage.
Hansen said Monday that he and his NASA crewmates, Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover and Christina Koch, were glad that officials postponed the Artemis II lunar mission originally scheduled for November of this year. The delay, he added, will give the team time to resolve technical issues with the Orion spacecraft, including its heat shield, before the craft’s first crewed flight.
“Now that we have those extra 10 months, if we find something else, we have more opportunities to make changes if we want,” Hansen told reporters at the Canadian Space Agency headquarters south of Montreal.
“The mindset is that we will find a lot of things we want to change for the Artemis program; we won’t change all of them for our mission, but we will identify them and many of them will be targeted for changes in Artemis III and IV.”
Artemis II involves a lunar flyby during which Orion will perform a figure-eight maneuver around the far side of the moon before returning to Earth. The spacecraft completed an unmanned mission around the moon, Artemis I, in late 2022.
Hansen said he and his colleagues regularly talk about the risks of spaceflight, but said he is confident NASA will take all necessary mitigation measures before sending its team into orbit.
“Every space mission has risks; launch and landing are, of course, the biggest risks,” Hansen said. “It’s the second time we’ve flown this vehicle (Orion), the first time with humans, so it’s still a very new program, so there are some elevated risks.”
Orion will travel through several orbital debris zones during the eight-day mission from Earth to the Moon and back.
“On risks like hitting something in space, you can’t just do a quick U-turn and come back,” Hansen said. “So no matter what, we have to live with what we have, once we decide to leave Earth.”
The moon mission will serve as a precursor to Artemis III, delayed until September 2026, which is expected to land the first woman and first person of color on the moon. That mission will mark the first time astronauts have walked on the moon in more than 50 years.
Hansen was visiting CSA headquarters where the media was shown how the team is preparing for the Artemis II mission. She was joined by Jenni Gibbons, who was named Hansen’s deputy in November and would be pressed into service if she is unable to make the trip.
Demonstrations included physical training sessions for astronauts in space and examples of how medical assistance is provided during deep space missions. Additionally, officials discussed the development of Canadarm3, a new robotic arm being built for the NASA-led Gateway lunar station.
Also on display were some of the Canadian dishes that will accompany Hansen on the mission: curried shrimp with rice, maple cream biscuits, wild keta salmon bites and maple syrup.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2024.