Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen says space exploration can drive technological innovation and he thinks Canada can become a leader in that area.

Hansen is set to become the first Canadian astronaut to fly around the moon, as part of NASA’s Artemis Two mission.

He said in an interview with BNN Bloomberg there are many reasons to go back to the moon, some of which are scientific, but he also sees economic reasons “with respect to driving new innovation.”  

“When governments set big goals and they bring that investment money in and they buy down the risk for companies, then there's a trickle-down effect,” Hansen said, adding that there are big challenges the Canadian Space Agency can work to address. 

Some of the biggest challenges of space exploration include meeting basic needs like water, food security, and remote health care, he said, suggesting Canada could become a leader in developing related technologies. 

“There's an opportunity right now for a country like Canada to really focus in these areas and be like, ‘Okay, we want to become world leaders in doing this on the planet, and then take this to space with our international partners,’” Hansen said. 

He pointed to robotics as an example. 

“Canada is a world leader in space robotics,” he said. “We have spent decades honing this expertise in our country, and it's only just now that there is a commercial market emerging for space robotics.”

The Artemis Two mission is scheduled to take place late next year.