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Mission to the Moon, with Artemis II astronaut Jeremy Hansen

Mission to the Moon, with Artemis II astronaut Jeremy Hansen

Transcript: Next Giant Leap, Episode 1: Mission to the Moon, with Artemis II astronaut Jeremy Hansen

Announcer: Seven, six, five, four. Stage engine start. Three, two, one. And liftoff on this one... We rise together. Back to the moon and beyond.

Kevin Fong: Hi, I'm Kevin Fong, and this is Next Giant Leap, a special podcast series brought to you by GZERO Media in partnership with Canadian space company MDA.

Neil Armstrong: It's one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.

Kevin Fong: The whole world was watching when Neil Armstrong spoke those immortal words before stepping onto the moon in 1969. Now, after a gap of more than half a century, we're going back. In 18 months, Artemis 2 is due to launch on a ten-day mission to carry four astronauts around the moon. In this first episode of Next Giant Leap, I'll be talking to one of the crew members due to fly on that historic mission. But as you'll hear in this four-part series, the excitement in the space industry is about much more than astronauts. There's the explosion of interest in the exploitation of space much closer to home. More than a thousand new satellites have been launched into low-Earth orbit so far this year, with still more to come. And before too long, there'll be orbital space tourist flights and the first commercial space stations. One of the companies playing its part in the new Space Age is this podcast partner MDA, with its 50-year history in the satellite, Earth Observation, and Space Robotics and Operations business. MDA designed and built Canadarm the iconic family of robotic arms that flew aboard space shuttle and that are currently in operation on the International Space Station today, as well as the Radarsat family of Earth observation satellites. Here's how MDA CEO Mike Greenley sees this moment in humanity's endeavors in space.

Mike Greenley: It's probably a revolution, and it's probably a new era. A revolution in terms of a time of wide-reaching change, if we use that definition of a revolution. In terms of a wide-reaching change of people's understanding of space, people's engagement with space, and the people's awareness of what is possible in space. There will be competition. Different people will end up with different economic and geographical footprints in space, and there will be large levels of economic activity. There will be competition, power shifts. So it's a new era, full of opportunity.

Kevin Fong: As for me, your host, I'm a doctor of medicine in the UK with a passion for space exploration, which has seen me work with NASA's medical teams in Houston and as a broadcaster for the BBC, making radio and television shows on space spaceflight, as well as the BBC's podcast 30 Minutes to the Moon. Talking of the moon, that's where the next giant leap kicks off with a very special guest who is actually going there. Two months ago at a NASA public event, the space agency's boss, Bill Nelson, revealed the identities of the crew of Artemis 2 the first mission, with people on board to fly to the moon in five decades.

Bill Nelson: The Artemis 2 crew represents thousands of people working tirelessly to bring us to the stars. This is their crew. This is our crew. This is humanity's crew. May I introduce them to you all?

Kevin Fong: Onto the stage, can Christina Hammock Koch, the first woman astronaut selected to fly to the moon? She was joined by Victor Glover, the first African-American astronaut to be assigned a lunar mission. And by Artemis 2's, Commander Reed Wiseman. And then, there was today's guest.

Bill Nelson: He's a master of science in physics and F-18 pilot and a Canadian astronaut. Your mission specialist, Jeremy Hansen.

Kevin Fong: Jeremy Hansen, a fighter pilot in the Canadian Air Force and now an astronaut in the Artemis program whose very first mission into space will be that voyage to the moon. Jeremy, welcome to Next Giant Leap.

Jeremy Hansen: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Kevin Fong: Jeremy, I want to start off with actually going back to when you find out you're selected as national and then how long it was that you had to wait before this flight.

Jeremy Hansen: Yeah, I've been down here in Houston since 2009, and so coming up on 14 years and I got a call from the president of the CSA, Canadian Space Agency, Lisa Campbell. And it was about two weeks before the announcement and she just let me know that it was time to make the official announcement. They decided with NASA that it was time to announce the crew and solidify our plans. And she wanted me to represent Canada on this mission. And that was a pretty exciting phone call to receive.

Kevin Fong: Were you expecting to be selected for that mission?

Jeremy Hansen: I did have a sense of that's where things were heading from the point of view of the Canadian Space Agency. It's not a mystery. When we hire an astronaut, we fully intend to fly them and frankly, we sort of go in an order. You know, we keep things fair to a certain extent, but you never know. Like there's many factors that can play in, schedule is one of the biggest ones. And so Artemis 1 being successful, the timing of Artemis 2 looking at, you know, whether it can actually go in that time frame, that could change the calculus of who ends up going on what mission. And so I did not know. I definitely was not completely shocked, but I was definitely pretty tickled by the idea that I would be going to the moon on this mission.

Kevin Fong: And you get this call, and of course, it's top secret at that point. How, how hard was it to keep it a secret?

Jeremy Hansen: That's kind of been my life. I mean, I've grown up in the military and there's some things you just don't talk about, and I'm used to that. That's not a big challenge for me. But, you know, there are people that I have to share that with. My parents, my wife and my kids and making sure they understood that they had to keep it secret. And they did. They all did a great job of that. So that was good.

Kevin Fong: Artemis II is going to be an historic mission in more than one way. Partly your inclusion as the first Canadian to break the bonds of low earth orbit and also partly because it's the first time that we're going back to the moon in more than 50 years. Right. Why do you think we need to go back to the moon?

Jeremy Hansen: You know, there's a lot to unpack there. And a lot of times we end up trying to wrap this up in a soundbite, if you will. And it's much bigger than that. But if I were to give that a try, you know, there's a few things that really stand out to me. The first would be science. I think as humans, sometimes we underestimate the return on investment of scientific research. Sometimes we don't see the immediate effects. But when you add it up over time, that science is what is allowing us to thrive here on this planet. And so that's very, very important. The other thing is, you know, this juncture in human history, I'm starting to realize that the challenges with respect to going back to the moon, going on to Mars, are overlapping with some new emerging challenges that we're really starting to face here on the planet. And climate change is feeding into some of that, but it comes down to basic needs. So providing for food security, clean drinking, water, safety, and these are types of things that we have to tackle and going back to the moon and eventually on to Mars. You know, we can't take everything with us if we're going to go to Mars. We have to learn to have food security, provide water for ourselves, clean drinking water. And the third thing I would emphasize is I think this is important from the point of view of setting big goals. And it's not so much important of what the specific destination is, but it's become obvious to me that we have global issues. We are doing okay on this planet, but I wouldn't say we're actually thriving. We have a lot of global issues to tackle and they require global solutions. And the only way to really get after these big problems is to have, you know, all 8 billion of us rowing in the same direction. And that means that you need people in their areas of passion, just doing what they do best, doing what they were brought, with the gifts that they have and then bringing those to the world. And that requires leadership and means they need big goals. They need to understand how they can self-direct to contribute to humanity on the planet. And a big space goal like going to the moon isn't the only goal we need on the planet, but it is one of the pillars that we can use to focus a lot of people to bring their gifts to the world and solve some really important problems.

Kevin Fong: And we talk there sort of in point, expansive terms about the vision. But I want to dig down now to the mission and the strategy and particularly the mission objectives of Artemis 2 and how it fits into the Artemis architecture, which eventually wants to see people return to the surface of the moon. So tell me a bit about that.

Jeremy Hansen: Part of us, too, is very much a test measure. It's the first time we put humans on this new transportation system, this new rocket called the space launch system, with a capsule on top called Orion. And our job, our mission on Artemis 2 is to really stress that vehicle and test it so that it doesn't surprise us on future missions like Artemis 3. And so in order for us to do that, our mission design is, will launch out of Florida and kind of be in a standard orbit as if we're going to the space station. And that means that about an hour and a half will go around the planet one time and we'll have an opportunity to return after that hour and a half if things are not going well in the capsule. And then if everything is going good after that first hour and a half, we'll do a lot of quick tests and look at the vehicle. Then we'll do another burn of our motors and we'll go to a really distant orbit from Earth on the order of 60,000 kilometers, which is really far. The International Space Station is about 400 kilometers away. And we'll be going out, like I said, somewhere around 60,000 kilometers. And that'll take about a day to complete that orbit. And again, at the end of that orbit, we'll be going all the way out and then coming all the way back close to earth. And that'll give us an opportunity to return if we have any issues. Again, we'll stress the vehicle during that 24 hour period. Make sure we're, we're seeing what we need to see from the vehicle and we're convinced that we can survive the eight day trip to the moon and back. And so at the end of that first 24 hours will fire engines again and then we'll be heading to the moon. It's called the TLI burn the translunar injection. And that takes us out to the moon and then all the way back to earth, just from that one burn. And that'll be pretty spectacular. And so all of this is to stress that capsule, make sure can support four humans, we'll do a lot of testing during that eight day trip to the moon and back, and just figuring out how the astronauts who will use it in the future, you know, exactly what they need, that the capsule can support them in order to take humanity back to the surface of the moon on Artemis 3 and beyond.

Kevin Fong: I am kind of smiling, actually, at the realization that this effectively, in quotes, is your rookie flight. After having waited for 14 years, you get to go on one of the most ambitious flights in the history of human spaceflight, actually, and certainly of the modern era. I mean, that's quite a thing. Do you feel that?

Jeremy Hansen: Yeah. Well, when you say it, when you say it like that, you know, it does kind of strike me. Yeah, you're right. It is pretty historical. And of course, you know, it's not lost on us. We are taking the big risk of getting out there. I didn't really allude to that before, but, you know, once you head out to the moon, once you commit to that, you really just can't do a U-turn and come home just because of the orbital mechanics of the, of the mission and how much fuel you have on board. If you have a problem, you're almost certainly committed to slingshotting around the moon like they did on Apollo 13 when they had a problem. That is your most likely avenue to return home. And so, you are committed to surviving that eight days that are remaining in the mission. That is why this is a much riskier endeavor, because you just can't turn around and come home.

Kevin Fong: And we're talking about the importance of the mission here, but I want to really come on to the subject of how important this is to your country, to Canada. We've seen a couple of Canadian astronauts. I know Chris Hadfield reasonably well, and David Saint-Jacques, of course, and both have had tours on the International Space Station. And this podcast sponsor, of course, is involved the Canadian space company MDA, who created the robot arms for both the shuttle and the space station. But does your inclusion in Artemis and Artemus, the Artemis program in general, take Canada to a new level in space exploration? Is it really symbolic for Canada?

Jeremy Hansen: Yeah, I think the word you use there, symbolic, is correct. It is symbolic of what Canada is capable of contributing, you know, with our international partners to take on these big, bold endeavors. You know, MDA, as you mentioned, is building a third generation of space robotics, and that was the prime contribution that led to this Artemis 2 mission was that commitment to build deep space robotic systems for the gateway, which would be a space station around the moon and doing space robotics around the moon is much more complicated than doing them in low-Earth orbit. And when you said symbolic, I think that is what has struck me the most about this mission assignment for me is just what it truly says about our Canadian space industry. It says it is relevant. It says it has a meaningful contribution to make with our international partners. And I have often felt like our space industry was undervalued, maybe underrepresented. I think Canadians, we seem to have a habit of maybe selling ourselves a little short or keeping ourselves a little small. And I have to tell you, you know, over the past 14 years, traveling across our country, meeting our space industry, seeing the work they do. Meeting our scientists and their research and their ambitions. I know there is incredible genius to be shared. It's not surprising to me. But this mission, I think, does show Canadians, wow. I mean, we are up to big things in the space program. And I'm super proud of our industry. I'm super proud of all of the people who have worked over decades and decades to get us to this point, because this didn't happen in the last year, certainly not the last month. This happened over decades.

Kevin Fong: How jealous do you think Chris Hadfield is of your slot on this mission?

Jeremy Hansen: Chris and I stay in touch a lot. You know, he's, he has been a mentor for me from the moment I was hired as an astronaut. Even actually, I know Chris would go in a heartbeat and he would love to go, but I really feel strong, kind of loving support from Chris on this. He's really excited for me and, you know, just always offering to help and provide guidance, which I really appreciate.

This is the captain... We got a bunch of guys about to turn blue, we're breathing again, thanks a lot.

Kevin Fong: I want to move now really on to that question of how you became an astronaut. As far as I can tell, there are two types right, there are the types who happened by accident. They were sort of walking on, accidentally filled in the application form, and felt themselves an astronaut. And there were the types like me who kind of used to run around when they were kids with goldfish bowls on their heads wishing they were astronauts. I wonder which category you're in.

Jeremy Hansen: I didn't have a goldfish bowl helmet, but everything short of that, I definitely was in that category. It's very clear to me I was inspired by an image of, I don't know if it was Buzz Aldrin or Neil Armstrong in the actual image, but it was under the Neil Armstrong category in encyclopedia A. And I can still see the page of that encyclopedia burned in my brain. You know as I tell you this story, I don't remember when it was, my mom tells me I was five, and when I saw that, I was really fascinated by airplanes. And so I spent a lot of time flipping an encyclopedia A because they had all these cool pictures in there. And then one day I just happened across the wrong page and saw this under Neil Armstrong. And that somehow had an impact on me. This realization that humans left our planet, you know, they weren't just flying above it in the air. They left our planet, went to the moon. This thing I could see in the sky, left footprints there and came back. That was something for me. And I turned my treehouse into a spaceship. I created all these dials made out of popsicle sticks and cardboard. I had flight controls, I had circuit breakers I found in the barn for switches in there. I drew pictures in there of stars and planets on the wall, in crayon. I was just going on space missions. And that, you know, when I look back upon it, what was interesting about that is I not only identified something I wanted to do, but I shared it with other people. I was telling people I was interested in space. I was looking for space books in the library. I told teachers I wanted to be a space explorer, my parents. And that for me, in hindsight is kind of the magic part, is that it was all these other people who were investing in me, guiding my path. You know, all of that led slowly over time. To me being at this point where I'm going on a mission to the moon.

Kevin Fong: So like many astronauts, you had a really interesting career before you got selected, right? You passed jet pilot, fighter pilot, Canadian Air Force, you flew F-18s. That's an exciting life. That is a lot of excitement and fulfillment in that career. When you traded it to become an astronaut, did you wonder if you had missed that element of it, or was it a no brainer for you?

Jeremy Hansen: Yeah, it was definitely a no brainer for me because it had been something that I was focused on for so long. I knew I really wanted to fly in space and was definitely willing to make sacrifices to do it. However, flight training has been part of astronaut training since the original Mercury seven astronauts. We still use flight training today. In fact, after this interview, I'll be going flying. And the reason we use flight training is you need to manage real risk before you go on a space mission. We have amazing simulators, but if all you ever do is use simulators that can't kill you, you are not developing and are continuing to maintain that ability to make decisions in high risk environments, decisions that can have life and death consequences. And what can be lost on people, is that it is a skillset to make a decision, almost to follow your intuition when you don't have the time or all the facts to make a choice. But a choice is needed.

Kevin Fong: I want to turn a little bit now to the specifics of the mission itself, and particularly about your launch assistant that you're going to be on the SLS. It's had one successful test launch, test flight, I guess, the most powerful rocket NASA's ever built and in fact, the most powerful launcher system that's yet going to have flown. What are your expectations? Have you imagined that moment?

Jeremy Hansen: I have definitely imagined it. Standing in the vehicle assembly building, which is the huge building where they put these rockets together in Florida. When Artemis 1 was there, so Artemis 1 was the first mission for this vehicle, but had no people on it. It was an uncrewed test flight of the vehicle. I mean, standing there looking at that vehicle, I tried to imagine what it would be like inside. And what I imagine is it's going to be a lot of rocking and rolling in there. These solid rocket boosters are, they create a lot of vibration. They're very, very powerful. They were part of the space shuttle system. These ones are, are larger. They have more segments they'll burn longer. And they really provide some vibration from what I understand about it. So I think it's going to be a pretty rocky ride on that vehicle. Nobody's experienced it yet, so it's hard to really say.

Kevin Fong: Now Artemis 2 is on the road to Artemis 3, which will hopefully put two astronauts on the lunar surface. What are the big milestones that you need to achieve in 2 to get 3 to happen?

Jeremy Hansen: Yeah, so, you know, I think primarily survive. That's one of them. So I guess when I think about that question, it's okay if we find some stuff that is not good enough for Artemis 3, but now we've identified it and we have time to work on it and create a solution. Every flight of Artemis is going to be a test flight. We are going to change things in this vehicle every single time. And so I wouldn't want people to think that Artemis, 2, has to go flawlessly in order for Artemis 3 to proceed. I don't think that's the case at all. But there are a number of things we are testing, and if we find issues with them, then we'll just come up with solutions. We're going to be stressing the life support systems they've never flown. They weren't on Artemis one. And so, like when you're in a a test program like this, you're sort of going as fast as you can safely. We flew Artemis 1 as soon as we were ready to achieve some major milestones. But even though everything wasn't ready yet, so like the life support systems were not ready, the toilet wasn't ready, the displays and manual flight control software were not ready, they did not fly. And so all of this stuff will be new on Artemis 2 and we'll be testing all of that out. And we're going to test some things like radiation protection. So, you know, there's a lot of constraints that go into when you launch and what environment, what space environment you launch into is one that you want. You don't want to be too restrictive for you. And so if you're, you know, have solar flares, for example, how do we protect the crew inside from that radiation? We're going to check out some of those, those aspects as well.

Kevin Fong: Right. You've created an almost kind of like a bomb shelter in the base of that vehicle, right. So that you can, in the event that you experienced solar flare. So it's an interesting thing. They didn't have that in Apollo, Right. So, so they just took their chances.

Jeremy Hansen: Yeah, that's right. Yeah.

Kevin Fong: And which brings me on to the thorny issue of risk. And people talk about risk in these missions, but there are different risks here than there have been in the last half century. Different from shuttle, different from space station, different from any of the sole use flights. Once you inject into trans-lunar injection, you're committed. How do you feel about those risks and what's going through your head about the uniqueness of those risks?

Jeremy Hansen: It's something that I anticipate will continue to develop as the crew continues to work on this mission, get deeper into the details on it. Understanding that risk. This is different. This is a higher risk posture, but I feel pretty good about it overall. I know the risk mitigation culture like this is what we do as a business. At NASA and the Canadian space agency and the international partners, we manage risk on a day to day basis on the International Space Station program. We're just very used to this, and it doesn't mean we can eliminate all the risk. That's definitely really far from the truth, but we can mitigate it, we can understand it. And I know when we launch, we'll know exactly what risk we've accepted, the things that have to work or we'll lose the crew. But I feel like for those, we will have at least one backup plan that is feasible, that it could be successful. And so I feel like we will launch with a good plan, but we still have some of those risks to identify. And, you know, if anything unforeseen were to happen to our crew, you know, they'll moralize it in this podcast. You know, what is really, really important to us is that people understand that we will take those risks. We will have accepted those risks before we launch. And the only way you could dishonor our contribution would be to say that we shouldn't continue. That would be heartbreaking for us to think that people prioritized four human lives over the benefits to humanity of continuing to push and set those big goals and have people working in their areas of passion to bring benefit to humanity. When we leave and accept those risks, we have accepted them and we will want to. The people who are lining up behind us to continue taking those risks to be allowed to do it. I feel like in the past we may have not prepared society well enough for some of the tragedies we've had in the past, and people were shocked. And we're a bit gun shy to continue to take those risks, maybe misled to think that, you know, if you just work harder, you can get rid of all the risks and you can never have another space accident. That's not true.

Kevin Fong: It is always fascinating to me that, you know, that exploration is risk. And these are some of the most risky feats of exploration in the history of humankind that are taking part against the backdrop of a society that is the most risk averse society in the history of humankind. It's an interesting juxtaposition that. What are you most looking forward to on this mission? You've imagined the launch. You must have imagined other elements of it. What? What is it?

Jeremy Hansen: It's the perspective. Looking, seeing the earth get smaller. Being able to see the entire planet. That marble hanging in space, seeing the moon get bigger, having a nice up and close view of the moon, and then swinging around the far side of the moon and seeing the earth through the moon. From the perspective of the moon. That is definitely what I'm looking forward to the most and sharing it with three other incredible human beings that I have a lot of respect for, that I know will enrich this experience. I mean, doing that with them is something that, that I'm really looking forward to.

Kevin Fong: And when America went to the moon in the 1960s, I think they thought it was the beginning of something. There were plans afoot to have an extended and semi-permanent presence there, but it was started in '69, it's done in '72. Is it different this time?

Jeremy Hansen: It is different this time. And what's different about it? One, it's an international program. You know, even though there were international participants in Apollo, for example, there were hundreds of Canadians that participated intimately in the Apollo program that brought their engineering expertise, their operational expertise to contribute. But this time, it is very much an international program from a government perspective. I think that helps a program have longevity. That's an important part of the strategy and that makes it even more important for humanity. And I credit NASA leadership with this all the time, but they have intentionally left space for other people to collaborate. So, you know, we have the initial partners in this program, but intentionally, there is room for other countries to join. And that is key to accomplishing some of the more global perspectives and benefits of human space exploration. So I'm pretty excited about that. And then there's another piece that's very different this time, and that is the commercial space aspect. And so in addition to other countries, governments being able to participate, there is room and an expectation and a need for a commercial industry to show up and provide some of these services and capabilities through a commercial perspective. And so that is also very, very different to Apollo. So what you will see develop out of all of this is you will see international program that has a lunar economy and that lunar economy will start to develop, and that will give us longevity and allow us to do more in the future and eventually take what we're doing on the moon to Mars.

Kevin Fong: Your crew has a different makeup from previous Apollo crews. You've got Christina on board. You've got Victor Glover on board. This is a diverse crew. You've got the first Canadian on board. How important is that diversity in representation in the exploration of space?

Jeremy Hansen: Yeah, this is a great question to answer, because it's really important to highlight the fact that diversity we have identified as human race, that diversity is a strength, and that we need to do better in that area and that we've, we've made progress, but we're not done yet with respect to diversity. And I think it's really important for people to understand and know it the way that I know it, is that we made diversity decisions in human space exploration years and years and years ago. And so if you, you know, reached into our international astronaut corps and you pulled out a random sampling of people, you would have a diverse crew. So this crew is here because of their merit and not because of diversity. I think that's an enormous success to celebrate and to highlight to others that we understand the value of diversity. I love it when Christina says we are going for all by all. I think that's a very, very powerful statement to unpack and, and sets us up to continue to work with respect to diversity, equality and justice that needs to be done in the world. So we're really excited as a crew to have an amazing mission and to demonstrate to people the power of diversity.

Kevin Fong: Jeremy I don't know whether Chris Hadfield is truly jealous of you. I am very jealous of you. I will be with you and vicariously exploring space alongside you and your crewmates on your journey back to the moon on Artemis 2, I wish you the very, very best of luck. The mission, I will be on the edge of my seat. I imagine you'll be on the edge of yours. Thank you so much for joining us today. It's been great to talk to you. Jeremy Hanson. Thank you.

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