Canada announced a landmark agreement with the US on Wednesday that will for the very first time see a Canadian astronaut orbit the moon for a manned 2023 mission as part of NASA’s renewed efforts to return to the moon.
Under the deal, one of Canada’s four active astronauts will be part of NASA’s Artemis II mission, which will be the first crewed mission to reach the moon since the US agency’s Apollo 17 expedition; however, the 2023 trip will not include a moon landing.
The signing of the Gateway Treaty, which was announced by Canadian Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains during a video conference, also confirms that the US' northern neighbor will play a vital role in the eventual establishment of the Lunar Gateway space station that will orbit the moon.
"All eyes will look to the sky as one of our astronauts becomes the first Canadian to travel around the moon," Bains said during the conference. “Canada will join the US on the first crewed mission to the moon since the Apollo missions.”
“This will make Canada only the second country after the US to have an astronaut in deep space," Bains noted, adding that the thought of a Canadian making such a historic leap “fills me with pride.”
Canada’s four astronauts are David Saint-Jacques, Jeremy Hansen, Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons and Joshua Kutryk. It has not yet been determined which of the astronauts will receive the golden ticket to Earth’s natural satellite.
The Artemis mission will include three phases, the first of which will involve an uncrewed maiden flight of the new Space Launch System and the Orion orbiter. The following two phases will involve the 2023 crewed lunar orbit and the crewed landing on the moon in 2024.