Mr. Hansen, how often have you looked at the moon in the past few weeks and thought: “See you soon”?
(laughs) I often looked at the moon. And actually I see him a bit with different eyes now. I’ve always had respect and admiration for the moon. I used to just look at it and see what I could see, and now I’m thinking how far away it really must be given how small it looks in our sky and how big it actually is.
Have you already realized that this is exactly where you will fly next year?
There are always moments when I have to pinch myself and think, “Wow, I’m going to the moon!” But the rest of the time I’m just focused on what I’m doing – and it doesn’t feel any different. But when I step back and think about it in those moments, I’m actually quite amazed that as a human I have the opportunity to get on a rocket, get off the planet and go to the moon. This is an incredible ability that mankind has developed. Thousands of people have worked for decades to enable us to do something so positive. And it gives off that we-can-do-it energy. I think that’s something the world needs right now.
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Most astronauts say it has always been their dream to go to the moon. They also?
In fact yes. As a child, I was fascinated by airplanes. I don’t know why, but I’ve always observed them in the sky. We had a bunch of encyclopedias at home that I often flipped through because they had really cool pictures of airplanes. And one day I happened upon Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. I saw this image of a human standing on the moon and I can still see the page in my mind’s eye it’s so ingrained. I don’t know how old I was then. My mother says that I was five years old, so still quite young. I spoke to her about the picture and eventually even turned my tree house into a spaceship. And since then I’ve had space adventures in my mind.
And now you will experience one for real. How did your family, especially your children, react to this?
They are proud of me but also very excited. Both of my girls are 17 and my son is 18, so they’re at an age where they know going to the moon isn’t without risk. But for her, the positive outweighs the negative. Although space travel is not their passion, it is mine – and they recognize that and are happy for me, which touches me very much. The fact that I can embark on this journey is not least thanks to my wife. We’ve always supported each other in our careers, so my trip to the moon is also due in large part to their efforts and support.
The journey to the moon is your first flight into space. What do you expect from this trip?
I expect it will not be an easy journey. As a crew of four, we have a lot of work ahead of us – and then a huge team on the ground to work with. So it’s going to be a very serious matter. Especially since it will be the first time that humans will fly to the moon in the “Orion” spacecraft – a place that is very dangerous and risky. The first flight last year was just an uncrewed test flight. The other expectation I have is an incredible life experience. I’m going to go to the moon with three friends, three people I have a lot of respect for and see amazing things. For example, as we fly, we will see the full-size Earth as a blue marble in dark space.
NASA astronauts Christina Koch (from left), Victor Glover and Reid Wiseman and astronaut Jeremy Hansen (centre) from the Canadian Space Agency. The four have been named by the US space agency Nasa to fly around the moon on the Artemis 2 mission next year.
© Source: Josh Valcarcel/Nasa/dpa
What do you think this will do to you?
I don’t know that. But when I talk to other astronauts who have seen Earth from above, they say they all definitely have a new sense of understanding. My colleague Reid Wiseman said he saw hundreds of pictures and videos of Earth before he went into space – and yet, as good as the cameras are, it’s not the same as looking out the window and seeing Earth. So I know it’s going to be a pretty amazing experience and I think it’s going to touch me.
Your crew members have all been in space before. Do you think it’s a disadvantage that you don’t have that experience?
This is definitely a disadvantage. Because if you do something for the second time, it is known to be easier. But I’m not worried about that. Also, I have three amazing tour guides to help me prepare for this mission.
But wouldn’t it have been a better option for someone who has never been in space to start with a “routine flight” to the ISS to gain initial experience in weightlessness?
No. While experience is always an advantage, you also have to think about what the future holds. We will always send newcomers on these missions to the moon. So I can gain valuable experience for the team by seeing the mission through the eyes of a newcomer. I don’t want to sugarcoat the fact that flying a beginner to the moon doesn’t also involve some risk. There is always risk. But that’s why the crew exists and you try to find a good balance between the experiences of the members.
Artemis 1 space capsule sets distance record
Record for the Nasa mission Artemis 1. Never before has a spacecraft intended to carry people into space been so far away from Earth.
© Source: Reuters
How do you prepare for the moon mission?
Training doesn’t start until the end of June. But we have already had some first meetings. For example, last week we conducted a geology training course. Flying the spaceship, working with the flight simulators – all of this is still under construction. It’s not like everything is ready and we can start training right away. There is still work to be done on the “Orion” spaceship; because it will be different this time. The first test flight still lacked the manual flight control systems and the life support systems. That is what we need now, and with it screens that we as a crew can interact with. Only when everything is ready can you build a simulator and start training. As a crew, we’re then primarily the testing team that helps figure out what it takes to have good lunar mission training. Ultimately, the space agencies can use the experiences that the four of us gain to develop a training process for the Artemis 3 crew and beyond.
But there are some things that are firmly integrated into the training. For example, we will learn how to get out of the vehicle quickly on the launch pad if there is a problem. Or we will use the simulator to simulate docking processes with the Lunar Gateway, the future space station in lunar orbit. Or the photo team shows us how to make the best use of the camera we have on board. There are all these things that we know are going to play a part, but they’re not clearly defined yet.
Isn’t the mission a bit frustrating too: As an astronaut, you dream of landing on the moon – but you will only fly past it.
(laughs) Yes, I would like to walk on the moon. That would be absolute madness. But I am by no means frustrated with this great opportunity that is being presented to me. This is an incredible gift. I will not take for granted the positive impact this can potentially have on the planet. And I will give people a very visible example of how amazing things can be achieved when we set big goals and work together to achieve them.