A Canadian astronaut will take part in a lunar mission for the first time in the country’s history as part of the NASA-led Artemis project, the government announced Wednesday.
The mission, Artemis II, will send a crewed test flight sent into lunar orbit in 2023. However, it does not involve an actual landing on the Moon, according to the US space agency.
“I am proud to announce another first: Canada will join the US on the first crewed mission to the Moon since the Apollo mission,” minister for innovation, science and industry Navdeep Bains, told a news conference.
“This will make Canada only the second country after the US to have an astronaut in deep space,” he said.
Bains did not identify the Canadian astronaut chosen for the mission, the first to the Moon since 1972. The announcement came at US Vice President Mike Pence last week unveiled an 18-strong group of people who could go to the moon as part of the programme.
Canada is one of eight countries – including Australia, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States – who have signed a treaty to participate in NASA’s Artemis programme, which aims to return humans to Earth’s nearest neighbour by 2024.
It also plans to establish a space station in lunar orbit, called Gateway.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that Canada’s participation in the Artemis programme is part of the country’s new space strategy, which includes an investment of $1.6bn across 24 years.
NASA hopes to build Gateway by 2026. It would serve as a landing point for missions to the Moon.
Artemis III is set to send astronauts, including the first woman, to the Moon in 2024.
The last astronauts to actually tread on the moon were the crew of Apollo 17 in December 1972.