A Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Dr Jenni Sidey-Gibbons (2016), is among a small group of astronauts who are now in contention for future missions to the Moon, after the Canadian Space Agency announced that it had secured two astronaut flights. Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, confirmed on 16 December that:
- A Canadian astronaut will join Artemis II in 2023, the first crewed lunar mission since 1972 and part of a NASA-led effort to establish a new international space station above the lunar surface, known as the Lunar Gateway, which will enable exploration of the Moon and future missions to Mars; and
- A second flight for a Canadian astronaut will be on a mission to the Lunar Gateway at a later, unspecified date.
In total, four astronauts at the Canadian Space Agency are currently eligible to fly on either mission. Dr Sidey-Gibbons completed her basic training in January 2020 and visited St Catharine’s soon after to talk about her experiences.
Speaking to the Canadian Press, she commented, “I think we’re all just pretty excited for the opportunity. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an astronaut, Canadian or otherwise, who wouldn’t want to be on the mission… Any one of us would gladly, gladly be on that flight.”
“The Apollo programme was an amazing programme that facilitated some incredible science but we were limited in the sites we could visit… The Canadian space sector takes a lot of pride in the fact that we’re a very early partner in the Artemis programme, and that we can take part in it from its very beginning is special for Canada and very exciting.”
Like the rest of the St Catharine’s community, Dr Sidey-Gibbon has needed to adapt to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic:
“Space flight and our mission kind of presses on, and we have to adapt and be able to train and prepare safely. It’s still moving along, of course, because there’s this huge drive behind it and people are really excited about working on the Artemis programme, but certainly all of our preparation and our work is approached with a level of caution that is appropriate for the pandemic.”