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Q&A: Astronaut Jeremy Hansen

Learn more about becoming an astronaut and achieving your dreams in this Q&A interview with Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Jeremy Hansen. 

  • Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen discusses the career path that led him to the Canadian Space Agency, including his time as a CF-18 Hornet pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen discusses the career path that led him to the Canadian Space Agency, including his time as a CF-18 Hornet pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
  • Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen discusses the lengthy training process to become an astronaut. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen discusses the lengthy training process to become an astronaut. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
  • Principal Daniel Woolf leads the question and answer period with Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    Principal Daniel Woolf leads the question and answer period with Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
  • Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen replies to a question from a student during the Q&A. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen replies to a question from a student during the Q&A. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
  • Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen speaks to a packed crowd of students at the Beamish-Munro Hall Atrium on Sept. 23. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)
    Lt.-Col. Jeremy Hansen speaks to a packed crowd of students at the Beamish-Munro Hall Atrium on Sept. 23. (Photo Credit: Bernard Clark)

Following his Principal’s Forum speech, Lt.-Col. Hansen sat down with communications officer Chris Armes to discuss lessons learned and tips for those who wish to shoot for the stars.

Chris Armes: Most people, at some point in their childhood, dream about being an astronaut. When did you first decide to actively pursue that dream and what inspired you to do so?

Jeremy Hansen: I was inspired to be an explorer and an astronaut at a very early age – early elementary school – mostly by seeing images of the moon landing, but my understanding of what it is to be an astronaut wasn’t clear yet obviously. It developed over time. I constantly updated that goal and that dream of being an astronaut as I continued to understand what it is to really be an explorer and never really gave up on that.

The biggest thing that I did that helped me was that I shared these dreams and aspirations with other people. You don’t do anything in a vacuum by yourself. Other people will help you achieve your goals – you just have to enable them to do so by sharing them.

CA: When you were selected by the CSA in 2009, what did you expect training to be like and how did it compare to your expectation?

JH: When I was selected I guess I didn’t really understand what the day-to-day life would be like. I had a very good picture of the demands of spaceflight, how much training time was involved – roughly two years of training for a mission once you’re selected prior to launch, six months on the International Space Station – things like that. What I didn’t know was what the day-to-day would be like. I assumed it would be pretty demanding, and it is. There’s a lot to learn and in your initial two years after selection. You basically spend all your time training. What I didn’t really get was, after I finished that initial training, that I would be a contributor to the larger space program. Now that I’m a trained astronaut, even though I haven’t flown, I spend a lot of my time contributing to the program and working with a huge team of people that makes spaceflight possible.

CA: On that same topic, what misconceptions do you find the general public has when it comes to astronaut training or space exploration in general?

JH: There are some misconceptions I see a lot. One is that spaceflight is commonplace and easy. We have learned a lot over the history of spaceflight for sure, but we are still pushing that envelope. Space is not easy for us. Every single day we have people in orbit and it is a huge challenge to maintain that. Now, we work as an international community to get this done, which adds other challenges to the work. One of the greatest rewards of the International Space Station is that we have now set an amazing example of what humanity can do by working together.

The other big thing worth considering is this invisible space infrastructure. We are so reliant on space, as humans today. There are so many conveniences and so many efficiencies that we have in today’s world and they are completely reliant on space. If we had a day without space, people would be shocked at the impact it would have on everything from driving to banking to your phones – it would have so much impact on humanity. That’s why it’s so important that we continue to push technology in space. We have to understand how we’re going to maintain that infrastructure in the future and how we’re going to do a better job of it and make it more affordable.

CA: What do universities need to do to prepare, not just the next generation of astronauts, but the next generation of leaders in science and technology?

JH: Probably the most important things going forward are going to be the way we communicate information and the way we organize information. People need to understand how they can contribute in a collaborative effort. We have this amazing communications system now – the Internet – so how are we going to organize ourselves in the future so we don’t have all this duplication of effort and nobody achieving the ultimate goal. We will need to be able to work together, set goals, set priorities, bring information together and organize it and find the right solutions so we can accomplish the most amazing things in the future. A lot of the ideas to do that will originate in universities.

CA: You’re currently awaiting a mission assignment. What is the one thing that you look forward to most about going to space?

JH: I know absolutely what I’m looking forward the most to when I get to space. It’s going to be the opportunity to look out the window at our planet. It’s very obvious to me that it’s a very emotional experience to see the planet from space with your own eyes. I’m just so excited to float up to that window, look out and just gaze upon planet Earth from space.

CA: What would be one take away from today’s presentation that you’d want attendees to leave with?

JH: In the space program, we set big goals on behalf of humanity that brings together an incredible team of people who, individually, would accomplish incredible things. But, when they are brought together with a common goal and united, they often accomplish the most impossible things. What I would love students to understand is what they need to do with their lives – they need to set goals. Some of them short-term, some of them long-term, but set goals, start off on the journey to achieve them, surround yourself with people who can help you achieve those goals, be that kind of person for the people around you and you will have a very fulfilling life experience.