NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) recently announced that a Canadian astronaut will fly as part of the crew of the Artemis II. On this mission, which is scheduled for 2023, an Orion space capsule will perform a moon flight in which it will fly around the moon without landing. This is the first of two crewing options NASA offers Canadian astronauts on Artemis missions (by agreement).
This scenic flight will pave the way for the Artemis III mission in 2024, when astronauts will return to the surface of the moon for the first time in over 50 years. The announcement was made last week (Wednesday, December 16) by Navdeep Bain and Lisa Cambell, Canada's Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry and the President of the CSA, respectively.
This mission will be a historic event as only American astronauts have ever traveled through Earth orbit, which has not happened since the last 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.
Artis' impression of an Orion space capsule flying around the moon. Photo credit: Lockheed Martin
The selected astronauts will also have the honor of being part of the mission that set the record for the furthest human journey beyond the other side of the moon. While Artemis II will be the first of two Artemis missions that a Canadian astronaut will be involved in, the second flight once it is put together (by 2030) will lead to the Lunar Gateway.
This agreement is in line with Canada-United States' longstanding tradition of collaboration, dating back to the earliest days of the space age. In terms of human space travel, Canada built the Canadarm for the space shuttle program. This was followed by the installation of the Canadarm2 on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001, which played an important role in the construction of the station.
Which of the Canadian astronauts will go remains TBD, but it will be one of the four active astronauts from the CSA who were also present at the announcement. They include:
Colonel Jeremy Hansen: Hansen, a former fighter pilot and Combat Operations Officer (COO) for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), was born in 1974 in London, Ontario. He was selected by the CSA in May 2009 as part of Canada's third astronaut recruitment campaign and is one of 14 members of NASA's 20th class of astronauts.Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons: Sidney-Gibbons was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1988 and is a retired mechanical engineer and assistant professor of internal combustion engines in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. On July 1, 2017 (Canada's 150th anniversary), she was recruited by the CSA as one of two new astronauts.Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Kutryk: Kutryk was born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta in 1982. He is a mechanical engineer and a former test / fighter pilot with the RCAF. He was selected by the CSA in 2017 as part of the fourth Canadian astronaut recruitment campaign.David Saint-Jacques: Saint-Jacques was born in Saint-Lambert, Quebec, in 1970 and is an engineer and astrophysicist. He is also an associate professor of family medicine at McGill University and a former physician and co-chief of medicine at Inuulitsivik Health Center in Puvirnituq, Nunavik, where he led medical education. He joined the CSA in 2009 as part of NASA's 20th astronaut class and spent 204 days on board the ISS as part of Expedition 58/59 (December 2018 – June 2019).Astronaut David Saint-Jacques takes a picture through a window in the ISS dome. (Photo credit: CSA / NASA)
Canada will also be responsible for equipping the Lunar Gateway with its external robotic system, which includes the Canadarm3 (a robotic system designed to function autonomously). The agreement to collaborate on the gateway was made under the astronaut agreement and calls on Canada to equip the gateway modules with robotic interfaces.
The Canadarm3 will also install the first two scientific instruments on the gateway. These will be NASA's Heliophysics Environmental and Radiation Measurement Experiment Suite (HERMES) and ESA's European Radiation Sensors Array (ERSA) experiments, which will improve weather forecasting for astronauts. Dan Hartman, the Gateway Program Manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center, stated:
"CSA's advanced robotics contribution with Canadarm3 builds on our long history of space travel and enables us to perform key long-term sustainability and maintainability functions, overall inspections of the external gateway and its connected vehicles, and external payload maintenance to support our global research initiatives.
“Our gateway efforts to integrate CSA's robotic system with arm attachment points and smaller nifty adapters already built into each gateway module, including PSA (power and drive element), HALO (outpost for housing and logistics), gateway logistics , are in full swing. and international living element designs. "
Artist's impression of an Orion spacecraft approaching the moon gate. Photo credit: NASA
The gateway is a central element in NASA's long-term goal of setting up a "program for sustainable lunar exploration". By 2030, this will include a surface element (the Artemis Base Camp) located in the crater-like and permanently shaded South Pole Aitken Basin. NASA plans to launch the first two segments of the gateway – a power and propulsion element (PSA) and a housing and logistics outpost (HALO) – in 2023.
However, the station will not be used as a temporary habitat for astronaut visits until other segments are shipped by the end of the decade. These are 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 astronauts can use to travel to and from the lunar surface.
Together with Artemis Base Camp, NASA and other agencies can send missions to the moon for longer periods of time. In the long term, the gateway will be combined with Deep Space Transport (DST), which enables crewed missions to Mars and beyond. Before that can happen, however, NASA must validate the Orion, Space Launch System (SLS), and other elements of Project Artemis for crewed missions.
The Artemis II mission is the first time astronauts have gone into space with an Orion space capsule, which was also tested without a crew. As Bain said, the mission will allow us to continue our tradition as a world leader in space exploration. It is exciting. It's a start And it gives us hope for the future in these challenging times. "
In a statement, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine praised the spirit of collaboration between the two space agencies. This included Canada becoming the first international partner to commit to the Gateway program last year and one of the first groups of countries to sign the Artemis Accords last October. As he said:
"Canada was the first international partner to commit to the further development of the gateway in early 2019. They signed the Artemis Agreement in October. We are now pleased to formalize this partnership for lunar exploration." This agreement represents a further development of our collaboration with CSA and offers the next generation of robots that have supported decades of missions in space on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station and now for Artemis. "
The first test flight of the SLS and the Orion (Artemis I), an unscrewed test flight of the SLS / Orion, is planned for November 2021. Artemis III will land "the first woman and the next man" on the moon for the first time in over 50 years is currently planned for October 2024. There is doubt that NASA will be able to meet this accelerated schedule announced by VP Pence in 2019 on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.
Part of the problem is the budget. Currently, the U.S. Congress has not approved the funding needed only for fiscal 2021 ($ 3.4 billion) to move the project forward. The HLS, which has become indispensable since the Lunar Gateway was de-prioritized last March, is still in the design phase. At the end of April, NASA announced the three companies competing to develop an HLS (SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics).
Artist's impression of the SLS on its mobile launcher. Photo credit: NASA
There is also the SLS which has experienced several delays that resulted in the Artemis I date being postponed several times at this point. And with a new government taking office on January 20, 2021, NASA may be released from its tough 2024 deadline, which could mean its priorities will shift a bit in the coming year.
One thing that won't change is the commitment of NASA and its international partners (CSA, ESA, JAXA, and maybe even Russia and China) to return to the moon (and lay the foundation for an enduring human presence) this decade ). NASA is also deeply involved in deciding who will be allowed to participate in the first crewed Artemis mission and those that follow.
During the same meeting, NASA presented the astronauts who will be part of the 18-person Artemis team. And as Hansen said, any happy CSA astronaut who gets to play Artemis II will do so on behalf of Canada and the entire astronaut team:
"We will all work to achieve this goal on behalf of Canada. One of the things that is really important to us as an astronaut corps is that we are a team and that we take on these great challenges together. but a process in which we set each other on the path. "
Further reading: CSA, NASA, Space Policy Online, SpaceFlightNow