A small-town boy who dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child saw his dream come true and is now relaying his passion for space exploration to local children.
“When I was very young I had this passion for flying and this desire to go to space,” said Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Jeremy Hansen at the “Robotics Rule” event at the Ontario Science Centre on Nov.18.
The event is a showcase of current robotics creations that takes place at the centre every year.
This year’s event focused on new robotics technology that’s being launched to conduct space exploration, with robotics groups including school teams and researchers on hand to demonstrate advances from Lego robots to the Curiosity Mars Rover.
A crowd of 100 gathered in front of the projector screen to hear Hansen speak on the role of robotics in astronaut Chris Hadfield’s upcoming mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
In his presentation to the young visitors, Hansen also talked about what it takes to become an astronaut.
“We need to teach children the basics, give them that inspiration to continue learning. … I want the kids to know that ‘Hey, space is awesome!’” he said.
Hansen said part of his job as an astronaut is to travel all over Canada and talk to kids about his experiences. This is what he enjoys the most, he said.
As a father of three young children, he is a perfect candidate for relaying the most interesting and most important information to kids. Hansen also attributed his passion for the job to making him an engaging speaker.
Realization of a Dream
As a child, he turned his tree house into a space rocket complete with with dials, gears, and murals of planets and stars on the walls, he said, noting that he was always launching his rocket into space and going on missions.
“I didn’t really know if I would be an astronaut or what it meant,” he said.
Growing up, Hansen learned that only a select lucky few got the chance to ever go to space, so he developed plan B.
He picked flying as an alternative and began studying to become a pilot at the age of 12 when he joined the Air Cadet Program.
He later graduated with a Master of Science in Physics from Royal Military College in Kingston and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Hansen eventually became a Major and was a CF-18 fighter pilot with responsibilities that included NORAD operations and the support of various military bases prior to joining the Canadian space program.
“That really taught me that, even though I really wanted to be an astronaut and [it was] in the back of my mind, I had to pick something that I could do in the near term … and just keep working toward my dream, and maybe someday it will work out—and it did,” he said.
‘Bring space back to the public’
In 2009, Hansen was one of two members chosen to join the third Canadian astronaut selection. He is one of 14 students in the 20th NASA astronauts class.
Hansen graduated in 2011 and is assigned as Crew Support Astronaut for fellow Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s upcoming mission aboard the ISS on Dec. 5. One of his roles will be to provide assistance and guidance to the expedition’s team members over the radio during their actual spacewalks.
“Mostly I just feel privileged, because the job of an astronaut is a really unique experience,” Hansen said. “I get to meet amazing people, I get to learn about all the new technology, I get to train on really neat systems.”
One of the things Hansen looks forward to most is to view Earth from space. “I think that would just be absolutely amazing,” he said.
According to Hansen, astronauts go to space for two reasons. “One is the technology development to push the boundaries to explore, but the other part of space is to benefit humanity.”
“If we can’t bring space back to the public … then we fail,” he said.
Taking the day’s event as an example, Hansen said it’s important to share the information astronauts learn in space with the general public.
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