For Sisler High School students, walking on the moon no longer seems like such a giant leap.
Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Maj. Jeremy Hansen visited the school on Thurs., Feb. 27 to share his story of how he became an astronaut to Sisler students, as well as northern Manitoba schools watching via videoconference.
Hansen started his journey to becoming an astronaut quite simply.
"I was at an air show and I saw this plane, a CF-18, and I was inspired by that," said Hansen, during his speech.
"I thought ‘That’s cool. I want to see what it’s like to be that guy, sitting in the cockpit, zooming through the sky and up into the clouds’, so I set that goal. I said ‘I want to fly fighter jets.’ I started asking people, ‘How do I do that?’ And they started giving me advice."
Raised on a farm near the village of Ailsa Craig, Ont., Hansen joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets at the age of 12, earning his glider and private pilot licenses by age 17. That led to his acceptance to Royal Military College Saint-Jean, then to a degree in space science and a M.Sc. in physics from the Royal Military College in Kingston. Hansen earned his Royal Canadian Air Force wings in 2002, subsequently serving as a CF-18 fighter pilot.
In May 2009, Hansen was selected to join the CSA, graduating from astronaut candidate training in 2011.
Hansen was a crew support astronaut on Expedition 35, Chris Hadfield’s recent run as commander of the International Space Station.
Right now, Hansen is one of only two Canadian astronauts, but said with commercial companies becoming increasingly involved in space exploration, that number is destined to skyrocket.
"When you get to the state of technology where commercial companies are making a business model out of it, it means that it’s going to be more efficient and that there’s going to be more rapid development," Hansen told The Times after his speech.
"You can look back at aviation for that example, you can even look back at space travel. Initially it took governments to get communication satellites into space. We don’t touch communication satellites, it’s a sustainable industry now, and that’s also happening with human space travel. The writing is on the wall. It’s going to be cheaper to fly people into space and there’s going to be more people going into space, people that aren’t necessarily government astronauts."
Hansen said the increasingly accessible nature of space travel means young people should dream to one day fly in space.
"No one should think that they can’t do this or anything else if they want to do it," Hansen said. "As Canadians we have enormous opportunity. We have a great education system. There are opportunities for people that go out and seek them, that put in some effort. It’s just a matter of setting goals and deciding to do it. That’s all it comes down to."
As for himself, Hansen hasn’t yet flown in space, but is confident he one day will.
"I expect to fly in space," he said. "It’s a little hard to believe still, but it drives me and it motivates me and I know it’s a tremendous privilege."