A Canadian astronaut will be part of a series of NASA missions intended to bring humans back to the surface of the Moon.
The astronaut will be given two opportunities to join the Artemis missions as part of an agreement between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
Artemis is the name given to a program encompassing several lunar-based objectives, including putting a small station in orbit around the Moon and landing people on the lunar surface.
The agreement between the two countries will see Canada provide a next-generation robotic arm — the Canadarm3 — onboard the station, which will be called the Lunar Gateway.
“Canada was the first international partner to commit to advancing the Gateway in early 2019, they signed the Artemis Accords in October, and now we’re excited to formalize this partnership for lunar exploration,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
The CSA will also provide robotic interfaces for two modules on the Gateway station.
In return, NASA will provide two opportunities for Canadian astronauts to crew Artemis missions: one to the Gateway and one on Artemis II, a crewed mission on an Orion spacecraft.
Artemis II will perform a slingshot maneuver around the Moon, using the gravity of the earth’s only natural satellite to retrieve data for mission planning and system performance for NASA’s eventual moon landing.
“This is a significant moment in Canada’s space history,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
“All eyes will look to the sky as one of our astronauts becomes the first Canadian to travel around the Moon.”
Canadian candidates for Artemis II, scheduled to launch in 2023, have not yet been announced.
18 American astronauts have been announced by NASA as candidates to take part in the Artemis missions. Half of them are women, signalling the U.S. intent to achieve another space exploration milestone by putting the first woman on the Moon.
NASA is also partnering with the European Space Agency (ESA) on the Gateway station, which will be approximately one-sixth the size of the International Space Station.
Gateway will serve as a research station, launch point for landers, and potential transfer point for deeper exploration, such as missions to Mars.