May 13, 2009

Canadian astronauts to train with NASA

Two new Canadian astronauts are to begin human spaceflight training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Canadian Space Agency said Wednesday.

Jeremy Hansen of Ailsa Craig, Ontario, near London, Ontario, and David St.-Jacques of Quebec City, Quebec, will train for a year to work at the International Space Station.

Once training is completed, they will be assigned to a U.S. or Russian mission to the space station in low Earth orbit.

The U.S. mission could be on the new Orion spacecraft, under development by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a CSA spokeswoman told United Press International.

The first Orion flight, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is scheduled for September 2014.

Hansen, a CF-18 fighter pilot, and St.-Jacques, an astrophysicist and a medical doctor, were chosen from 16 finalists, who themselves were selected from 5,351 hopefuls, said the CSA, which has collaborative agreements with the European Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Russian Federal Space Agency and Indian Space Research Organization as well as with NASA.

Hansen and St.-Jacques, introduced to the public Wednesday, are the first Canadians to join the astronaut corps since 1992.

Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk is scheduled lift off in a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, May 17 to take part in a long-term mission on the space station.

Colleague Julie Payette will be a mission specialist aboard the shuttle Endeavour on the next U.S. shuttle mission to the space station, scheduled to launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida June 13.