Canadian astronauts receive new assignments

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) says a seat has been secured for Canada on the first crewed mission to the Moon in five decades.

François-Philippe Champagne, who is the minister responsible for the CSA, announced Wednesday that astronaut Jenni Gibbons will serve as the CSA backup on the Artemis II mission. As the designated backup, Gibbons will be ready to step in should fellow Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen be unable to participate in the mission.

“Jenni’s role will be instrumental in shaping and validating astronaut training and processes for upcoming lunar missions. In other words, she will contribute to the preparation of future Artemis missions,” the CSA explained Wednesday.

The CSA says the Artemis II mission is set to launch no earlier than November 2024. It is expected to be about 10 days in length and is set to be the first crewed test flight of the Artemis program.

Gibbons was born in Calgary and has a background in engineering. She graduated from Astronaut Candidate Training and officially obtained the title of astronaut in 2020, according to the CSA. During her time as an astronaut, she has supported on-orbit crew and families, and has acted as the ground communicator for a series of spacewalks.

“It is an honour to fill this role for my agency and my country to make the most of the opportunity afforded to us by our contributions to the international effort of lunar discovery,” Gibbons said. “Space is for everyone: as Canadians, we recognize its essential nature in our day-to-day life, economic well-being, and commitment to technological advancement.”

CSA astronaut Joshua Kutryk has also been assigned to a space mission. Champagne says Kutryk will be the next Canadian to fly to the International Space Station as part of the Starliner-1 mission. This is set to be the Boeing CST-100 Starliner crew ship’s first operational mission.

“During his mission, Joshua will conduct science experiments and technology demonstrations. He will also support critical operations and maintenance activities,” the agency explained.

The Starliner-1 mission is set to launch no earlier than the beginning of 2025, the CSA says. Its duration is planned to be approximately six months.

The Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, native served as a CF-18 fighter pilot from 2007 to 2011, flying in various missions to support NATO, the UN, NORAD, and more.

He was selected by the CSA as a recruit in 2017, and officially obtained his official title as astronaut in 2020. Kutryk started working with the Starliner team in the U.S. in 2021.

“I am grateful to represent Canada on this mission,” Kutryk said.

“Space, for me, is about curiosity, adventure, innovation and science. But it’s also about collaboration. Collaboration towards future opportunities. Space is about collaborating for a better future. It’s about our future; it’s about Canadian prosperity. Our country decided decades ago to invest in space because it helps us solve challenges for Canadians, and we are still driven by this purpose today. I’m committed to making the most out of this incredible opportunity for our country.”

There are four active Canadian astronauts. David Saint-Jacques and Hansen both joined the astronaut corps in 2009. 

Saint-Jacques spent more than six months aboard the International Space Station in 2018 and 2019.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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