NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) recently announced that a Canadian astronaut will fly as part of the crew of Artemis II. This mission, scheduled for 2023, will see an Orion space capsule conduct a circumlunar fight where it flies around the Moon without landing. This will be the first of two crew opportunities that NASA will provide for Canadian astronauts on Artemis missions.
This circumlunar flight will pave the way for the Artemis III mission in 2024, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface for the first time in over 50 years. The announcements were made last week by Navdeep Bain and Lisa Cambell, Canada’s Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry, and the President of the CSA.
This mission will be a historic event since only American astronauts have ever travelled beyond Earth orbit, which is something that has not happened since the closing days of the Apollo Era in 1972. The mission will also make Canada the second nation in the world to send an astronaut around the Moon.
The astronaut selected will also have the honour of being part; of the mission that sets the record for the farthest human travel beyond the far side of the Moon. Whereas Artemis II will be the first of two Artemis missions; that will include a Canadian astronaut, the second flight will be to the Lunar Gateway once it’s assembled.
This is agreement is in keeping with the long-standing tradition; of cooperation between Canada and the United States, which have since the earliest days of the Space Age. In terms of human spaceflight, Canada built the Canadarm for the Space Shuttle program. This was followed by the Canadarm2 being installed on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001, which played a vital role in the station’s construction.
Which of Canada’s astronauts will get to go remains TBD, but it will be; one of the CSA’s four active astronauts who were also present for the announcement. They include:
- Jeremy Hansen
- Jennifer Sidey – Gibbons
- Col. Joshua Kutryk
- Dabid Saint – Jacques
Canada will also be responsible for providing the lunar gateway; with its external robotics system, which will include the Canadarm3. The agreement to collaborate on the Gateway was finalized as part of the astronaut agreement; and also calls on Canada to provide the gateway modules with robotics interfaces.
The Canadarm3 will also install the first two scientific instruments to the Gateway. These will be; the NASA’s Heliophysics Environmental and Radiation Measurement Experiment Suite (HERMES) and the ESA’s European radiation Sensors Array (ERSA); experiments which will improve weather forecasting for astronauts.
The Gateway is a central element to NASA’s long-term goal of establishing “a program of sustainable lunar exploration”. By 2030, this will include a surface element located in the cratered and permanently-shadowed South-Pole Aitken Basin. NASA plans to launch the first two segments of the Gateway a Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and a Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) in 2023.
However, the station will not be used as a temporary habitat; for visiting astronauts 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 paired; with a reusable human lander system (HLS) that will allow astronauts to travel to and from the lunar surface.