It is very possible to see a man on Mars by 2040.

Jeremy Hansen (London, Canada, 1976) got a call from his boss in mid-March. “We talked to NASA. “We’re going to form a team and we want you to fly on behalf of Canada,” he told her. Lisa Campbell, head of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Emotions overcame him even though he had to keep the secret until it was made public. Two weeks later, on April 3, Bill Nelson, the director of NASA, announced the names of those selected to coordinate Artemis 2 at the military base in Houston (Texas), the second mission of the Artemis program, which will be responsible for orbiting the moon and testing all the Orion capsule systems. This would pave the way for another crew to land on the moon a year or two later, starting in 1972. Together with Hansen, who is assigned as mission specialist, they will sail the ship Christina Koch (More Expert), Victor Glover (Pilot) and Reed Wiseman (Commander).
The flight is scheduled for November 2024 and Hansen, a physicist, fighter pilot and astronaut since 2009, will be the first non-American to travel to an Earth satellite. As with all of his public appearances — shrouded in his blue workwear — he joins the L debate via video call. Behind him, a mock-up of a space capsule overlooking Earth hangs on the white wall. The CSA logo is framed in the center of the capsule. Despite the fact that the agency offers only a ten-minute interview, Hansen has no qualms about breaking the clock and answering all the journalist’s questions.

How was the call from your boss? Did you know there would be Canadian representation for the mission or are you in for a surprise?

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Yes, we’ve known that for a long time. I don’t remember when NASA and CSA announced that there would be a Canadian on Artemis 2, but it was a while ago. [en diciembre de 2020]. After we committed to build and design Canadarm 3 (the third Canadian space robotic arm) for the future Gateway lunar station, there was a negotiation and when we signed that contract, the Gateway contract was there. But it depends on the moment. For example, you never know what’s going to happen with Artemis 1, and even though it was a very successful test, it’s not known which astronauts are going to fly on a mission until it’s officially announced.

Artemis 2 is similar to what Apollo 8 achieved in its day, as it was the program’s first mission to orbit the Moon. How exactly are they different?

– Artemis 2 is a combination of Apollo 7 and 8. Apollo 7 was the first manned capsule to orbit Earth. Apollo 8 had to do this with a lunar lander, which was ultimately not ready for launch, so they decided to use a mission to go to the moon. One of the main differences between Apollo 8 and Artemis 2 is that Apollo 8 orbited the Moon several times, but we’re going to spend a full day in Earth orbit, testing the rover before changing its trajectory. Once you have enough energy to go to the moon, it is difficult to come back to Earth. For safety reasons, we’re going to do what Apollo 7 did: stay in Earth orbit for a day and then go to the moon.

D. I. A D., Jeremy Hansen, Victor Glover, Reed Wiseman and Christina KochGTRES

-The duration of the trip is estimated to be around ten days, but that’s not confirmed yet, is it?

-It will be close to that period, about nine or ten days. It really depends on where the moon is when we take off.

“Is there any possibility that any of you crew members will be reassigned for another assignment?”

-If possible. Not for Artemis 3, whose crew will be notified before we leave and will be training by then. Any astronaut is eligible, so it depends. You have to wait your turn.

-As an astronaut, you worked as an aquatic creature and prepared yourself by living in caves. How do you think this experience will help you at work?

– They are very helpful. The reason we’re doing the Nemo mission, whether living at sea or exploring a cave, is to stress astronauts on team dynamics and help them develop communication, relaxation and risk management skills. We don’t want it to be the first time they do it as part of a team when they go to space, but to use them on Earth first. While these experiences are very helpful, there are many dangers to manage when living under the sea or in a cave.

Delivering the Artemis 2 missionNASA

The final destination of the Artemis project is Mars. When do you think we’ll see a man there, and why is it important to get one?

As for the first question, this is something we always try to guess. It depends on major technological advances occurring rapidly. If SpaceX’s Starship, our lunar lander, succeeds, it will be a major breakthrough in getting to Mars. Other technologies seek to change our rate system, combining the two to reduce travel time from eight months to two. But these are difficult things to predict… In the next decade these developments may already be a reality. It is very possible to see a man walking on Mars by 2040, but sometimes it takes longer than expected.

In relation to getting there, I would like to highlight two thoughts. For one thing, Mars is fascinating. Currently there is a lot of talk about climate change and climate adaptation. What happened to Mars, which had water and a more protective atmosphere? Will the same happen to Earth? There may be important clues, one of the great mysteries of the solar system that is still unsolved. Another advantage to keep in mind is that if we go to the Moon and Mars, some of the challenges we’ll experience here are the same challenges we face on these great missions: food security, meaning having reliable food. Maybe farming in space or sanitation are things facing isolated communities on Earth. The solutions we create in space will help us live better on our planet. By going to the Moon and Mars, we will test technology, bring people together, and contribute solutions to it.

The solutions we create in space will help us live better on our planet

The other aspect I have talked about with my children has to do with the damage we are doing to our planet, which is very scary. In that sense, space projects are an example of what happens when you set very ambitious goals and invite people to get creative, work together, and more. Incredible results can come from this, and at the same time it is a very valuable demonstration for younger people of how far common work can go.

– We are witnessing a moment when things that seemed to succeed, like conspiracy theories about flat earthing or the arrival of man on the moon, are re-emerging and expanding. Are you worried?

-It’s interesting. It doesn’t worry me, but it does confuse me a bit anyway, and I wish people didn’t have doubts. Pessimism bothers me and worries me because it is something very important. As humans we have the ability to know what is true. Everyone has their own perspective, but there are things that are true and things that aren’t. We need to trust each other and somehow have a system that defines what is intentional and what isn’t. This is the essence of science: it is not designed to have all the answers, but to be a system in which you come up with hypotheses, work on them, and have your colleagues evaluate them and decide what is true.

Hansen, during his preparation in a cave in Sardinia in 2013CSA

I hope people realize that there are answers they are looking for and that they can be part of a community that nurtures and shares the truth. It’s a fact that we went to the moon in 1969 and the early 70s. It’s a fact that the Earth is round. I know those people are smart, and I know they’re doing it for a good reason. But I hope they can come to the conclusion that we need to share these truths with them, and they can explore with us someone they trust. Like I said before, I hope we can use this space to bring people together, not divide them.

Did you know the rest of the crew before it was announced?

Yes, and really a lot. Reed Wiseman, the commander, and I were classmates. We started out together, me with CSA and him with NASA, but we went to class together in 2009 and have worked hand in hand ever since. He is one of my best friends. Victor and Christina came to class four years later, so I’ve worked with them a lot, know a lot about them, and have a lot of respect for them. We have spent a lot of time together both professionally and socially. They are my comrades, but also friends.

It all started with a photograph

Born and raised on a small family farm in Ontario, Hansen became fascinated with the universe as a child when he saw a photo of Neil Armstrong on the moon in a magazine. “I wanted to know what it would be like to get off this planet and see it from the outside,” he reveals in a CSA promotional video. His interest in the connections between agriculture and space comes from these rural sources, among others. Despite being the oldest astronaut of the four, the Canadian was the only one released without a launch. He will do it in a big way after a 15-year wait, and while it is a milestone for his country, he insists it is even more for humanity as a whole.

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