Children gathered at First Nations University of Canada in Regina Thursday watched in awe as 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 set to travel around the moon during the Artemis ll mission, which is expected to embark as soon as September 2025.
He spoke at Thursday’s event about how time he has spent with Indigenous elders has shaped his beliefs and perspectives.
“I think Indigenous knowledge has cemented things that I was taught from my parents,” said Hansen. “One of the things I love is that there’s an overlap and understanding about the value of humans, and we all have equal value.”
The patch was designed for Hansen by Anishinaabe artist Henry Guimon of the Turtle Lodge, an Indigenous education centre in Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, where Hansen spent time.
The symbols on the badge represent seven sacred laws, including a buffalo for respect, an eagle for love, a bear for courage, a bigfoot for honesty, a beaver for wisdom, a wolf for humility and a turtle to represent truth.
“You see the seven sacred laws, which are really instructions for us, reminders for us how to aspire to be as humans, for how we walk on this planet,” said Hansen. “As I represent Canadians going on this mission, this is an important reminder for me of how I would like to walk and the example I would like to strive to represent.”
Dave Coucherne, Turtle Lodge’s leader, was present Thursday for the unveiling of the patch.
“When [elders] speak of their teachings, their gifts to our people, [they] teach us to show us how to conduct ourselves and how to behave on the planet,” said Courchene.
“Each of these teachings are represented by an animal. The purpose is that they can keep us connected to the land. People thinking about animals and seeing how they behave and act, this is how we learn.”
Hansen has been 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 set to create a durable lunar presence and pave the way for human exploration of Mars,” according to the Canadian Space Agency. The Artemis II expedition around the moon is expected to be 10 days long and is designed to test equipment and safety processes for future teams that would eventually land on the moon and stay in space for a longer period of time.
“It’s a stepping stone approach,” said Hansen. “Before we commit to a month-long mission with this capsule stuck in lunar orbit, we want to test it on a profile that is safer.”
Hansen will be on the mission representing the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), along with with three other astronauts from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). His crew mates have all previously flown to the International Space Station. 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 really huge problems,” said Hansen.
“Going to the moon has not gotten any easier since the 1960s. And this time we’re doing it as an international partnership.”
Hansen said another element of the teachings from Turtle Lodge that stood out to him was the Indigenous people’s connection to the land and the harmony that comes with taking care of our planet.
We need to understand how to tread more lightly on this planet.I think that’s a beautiful gift to offer.– Jeremy Hansen
NASA is doing a lot of climate research using decades of space data to see how our planet has changed, Hansen said.
“[Indigenous people] were patient and eventually [knew] their gifts would be needed and respected. And that time really does seem like now, where we need to reverse what we’re doing to Mother Earth,” said Hansen.
“We need to understand how to tread more lightly on this planet. I think that’s a beautiful gift to offer.”
Hansen took time to answer questions from the children in the audience. As someone who got his military flight training in Moose Jaw, Hansen said he wants to inspire Saskatchewan children to follow their dreams.
“I saw a photo of a human standing on the moon and it changed my path that I put myself on, and setting that goal to be a space explorer and sharing that with other people,” said Hansen.
“Now I look back at how people lifted me up to achieve my goals, so I’m well aware that just by spending time with people and sharing that, they might impact their lives and that’s very meaningful for me.”