Beyond Earth

An Interview with Astronaut Hansen

On October 12th, Astronaut Jeremy Hansen visited the Lassonde School of Engineering to deliver a talk on space exploration, challenge, fear, and perseverance.

Jeremy Hansen is one of the few Canadian astronauts currently active. Born in Ontario, LCol Hansen had a successful military career as a CF-18 Fighter Pilot. In 2009, during the third Canadian Astronaut Recruitment Campaign, Hansen was one of the two selected recruits. He is currently awaiting and preparing for his first space mission.

Lassonde students invited Hansen to our campus to share his thoughts on STEM, space, life, engineering, and navigating career paths. His talk went above and beyond expectation as he shared with students, professors, and faculty his firsthand experiences. Hansen spoke about finding and following his passion, extreme astronaut training, crashing planes, learning how to learn, and believing in yourself.

Hansen offered a cosmic perspective and inspired the crowd to live their lives, unbounded, as explorers of the world.

Lassonde Media Group was grateful to ask him some questions about his life and career before his talk to find out more about why he chose space, his role as a father and position as a role model, his most prominent failure, and one thing he would really, really miss while in space.


Full interview below

Maira Zafar: So obviously you like space. I hope so. Why space over everything else, why did you choose deep space exploration over deep sea exploration, for example? Was it the view?

Jeremy Hansen: [laughs] I  enjoy all types of exploration. On my journey to explore space I’ve had the opportunity to be an explorer on earth, so I lived under the ocean for a week, I explored a cave and lived in there for an entire week, explored deeper and deeper into the cave every day. I’ve explored the Canadian arctic. These are real exploration expeditions, and I love it. So it’s not necessarily one over all the others, but space captured my imagination early. When  I saw that humans stood on the moon, that really impacted me. I thought, wow, I would like to stand in a place where I could look up and see the earth,  instead of standing and seeing the moon in the sky.


MZ: Is there anything from all of the extreme astronaut training you’ve done that you feel applies to your everyday life, like raising your children or anything?

JH: Yeah, well, absolutely. There’s lots. In fact, raising children probably teaches me more about being an astronaut than necessarily the other way around. I guess if I think about it, what I tell my kids is, you have to follow a passion. And what I’m sharing with young Canadians is that you have to follow a passion and do your best. Bring your best you to every scenario. That’s what I feel I’m doing in life. I’m living that. Space is a passion for me and I’m just bringing the best me that I can to that endeavor.


MZ: What is something you’re really not looking forward to about being on a space mission?

JH:  I think the only thing is just being away from family. I understand, it’s very clear to me, that it’s the most incredible opportunity. I’m so excited about it, to look back on the earth. I can barely imagine how amazing that’s gonna be. However, living in a tin can away from earth is only gonna make you appreciate the fact that you and I can walk outside and experience nature and feel the sun and the wind and spend time with family and friends and I’ll be living in a tin can. I’m definitely gonna miss that, so that’ll be the hardest part for sure.


MZ: I believe failure is threaded through every success, so when was a time you failed in a big way and it impacted you personally and professionally?

JH: Like you say, there’s always little failures and I don’t look back and think of them as big in any big way anymore, but I probably did at the time, right? This is not to minimize them, this is to put them into perspective- they’re just things that happen on your journey. They just sort of fade away over time, I can’t even think of  some of the bigger ones. One that comes to mind is, I remember I was really concerned, I had failed a flight on my F18 training so it was this combat mission and we were fighting, me and another plane, we were fighting a third plane and I had a bit of an engine issue and ended up losing control of the aircraft and I was tumbling out of the sky. It was a big deal. Of course, after that happened, I had to go back and land and make sure the plane was okay and so I failed that trip, because I didn’t complete the mission on that trip. And I thought, wow since I’ve failed this trip, I maybe won’t top this course, maybe I won’t be an astronaut. You know, I created all these possible scenarios that weren’t true, and I was worried it would impact my career, but it didn’t, obviously.


MZ: One definite allure of space is that it’s kind of reaching for something that’s been thought of as unreachable for so long. With the commercialization of space travel by companies like SpaceX for example, do you feel like it’s going to start eventually losing its appeal?

JH: I hope that that’s the case. I hope that more and more people get to travel into space and it becomes more commercially available. I think that the more people that leave our planet and look back upon it, the better it’ll be for humanity. There’s not one of my colleagues who leaves and comes back who isn’t struck by the experience, who isn’t changed, and I think that that would be a very very wonderful and amazing thing for our species, just that more people have that perspective of the connectedness that really is going on on this spaceship that we live on. So I hope it does lose its romance, that it becomes part of everyday life. But there’ll always be new challenges, to look out into the night sky and realize that even if we do get lots of people flying in space and even if we colonize Mars one day, there’s a lot left to explore and a lot left to inspire.


MZ: I have one more question for you. It was fairly obvious to you when you saw the picture of the Apollo mission that this was what you wanted to do. Now I feel like it’s different because there’s so much over-saturation of information, so what advice would you have for someone trying to find their one passion in this age?

JH: I would tell them not to worry too much, you know. You don’t go find your passion, it finds you. So you just have to be open. You have to open yourself up to challenges. This is where I think people miss out sometimes. They see something that’s hard, but there is a calling inside of them at that time, they know that they’re attracted to that challenge but they don’t believe in themselves, they don’t believe that they can succeed. They’re afraid of that failure and that’s where you have to make the right choice. You have to answer that calling inside of you, be open to it. Life is just a series of these challenges and experiences. It’s not that you created the one, it’s just the series. Embrace the challenges.


Theresa Nguyen is a second year Mechanical Engineering (w/ dual specialist in International Development) student. She has a passion for science, biology, films, design, fashion, international relations, politics, world issues, and all things cool. She is currently the Editor in Chief of Lassonde Media Group, and is afraid of ketchup.
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