Children gathered at the Canadian First Nations University in Regina were in awe Thursday when astronaut Jeremy Hansen unveiled the patch, designed by an Indigenous artist, that he will wear as the first Canadian to fly to the moon.
Hansen, who is from London, Ont., is one of four crew members scheduled to travel around the moon during the Artemis ll mission, which is expected to launch as early as September 2025.
He spoke at Thursday’s event about how the time he spent with Indigenous elders shaped his beliefs and perspective.
“I think innate knowledge has taught me things from my parents,” Hansen said. “One of the things I love is that there is an overlap and an understanding of the value of people, and we all have the same value.”
The patch for Hansen was designed by Anishinaabe artist Henry Guimon of the Turtle Lodge, an indigenous education center in the Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, where Hansen spent time.
The symbols on the crest represent seven sacred laws, including a buffalo for reverence, an eagle for love, a bear for courage, a bigfoot for honesty, a beaver for wisdom, a wolf for humility and a turtle for truth.
“You see the seven sacred laws, which are really instructions for us, reminders for us how to want to be as people, in the way we walk on this planet,” said Hansen. “As I represent Canada going on this mission, this is an important reminder to me of how I want to walk and the example I want to try to represent.”
Jeremy Hansen speaking at the unveiling event next to Turtle Lodge leader Dave Courchene, center, and patch artist Henry Guimond. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)
Dave Coucherne, head of Turtle Lodge, was on hand Thursday to unveil the patch.
“When [elders] talk about their teachings, their gifts to our people, [they] teach us how to behave and show us how to behave on the planet,” said Courchene.
“Each of the teachings is represented by an animal. The purpose is that they can keep us connected to the earth. People think about animals and see how they behave and act, this is how we learn.”
Hansen is touring Canada to spread the word about the Artemis II mission, which is set to be the first crewed mission to the moon since the Apollo mission in 1972.
The Artemis program is “a multi-mission campaign designed to establish a lasting lunar presence and pave the way for human exploration of Mars,” according to the Canadian Space Agency. The Artemis II trip around the moon is expected to last 10 days and is designed to test equipment and safety processes for future crews that would eventually land on the moon and remain in space for a longer period of time time.
“It’s a phased approach,” Hansen said. “Before we commit to a one-month mission with this capsule stuck in lunar orbit, we want to test it on a safer profile.”
Hansen will be on the mission representing the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), along with three other astronauts from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). All his friends had flown to the International Space Station before. This will be Hansen’s first time in space.
“The Artemis missions are really beautiful examples of nations from around the world coming together to tackle huge problems,” said Hansen.
“Going to the moon hasn’t gotten easier since the 1960s. And this time we’re doing it as an international partnership.”
Hansen said another aspect of the Turtle Lodge teachings that stood out to him was the Indigenous connection to the land and the harmony that comes with caring for our planet.
NASA is doing a lot of climate research using decades of space data to see how our planet has changed, Hansen said.
“[Indigenous people] was patient and after after [knew] their gifts would be needed and appreciated. And that time seems to be now, when we need to reverse what we’re doing to Mother Earth,” Hansen said.
“We need to understand how to go lighter on this planet. I think that’s a beautiful gift to offer.”
Jermey Hansen greeting the children at Thursday’s departure. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)
Hansen took time to answer questions from the children in the audience. As someone who received his military flight training in Moose Jaw, Hansen said he wants to inspire Saskatchewan’s children to follow their dreams.
“I saw a photo of a person standing on the moon and it changed my path that I put myself on, and set that goal to be a space explorer and share that with other people,” Hansen said.
“I look back now at how people raised me to achieve my goals, so I’m very aware that spending time with people and sharing it can impact their lives and it’s that makes a lot of sense to me.”