The coronation of King Charles III will include Canadian space flair.
Artemis 2 moon mission astronaut Jeremy Hansen will bear the Canadian flag at the coronation on Saturday (May 6), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office announced. On Artemis 2, which is scheduled to launch as soon as November 2024, Hansen will become the first non-American to circle the moon. He'll fly alongside NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Christina Koch and Victor Glover.
The Canadian coronation delegation, led by the king's representative in Canada (Governor General Mary Simon), will also include Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Jenni Sidey-Gibbons, Trudeau's office added in its Wednesday (May 3) statement.
"It is an honor to have been asked to carry the Canadian flag for the coronation of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen Consort," Hansen wrote on Twitter.
Select delegates from all participating countries, including Hansen, will begin a procession from Buckingham Palace in London around 5:20 a.m. EDT (0920 GMT or 10:20 a.m. local London time) for a 40-minute walk to Westminster Abbey. The ceremony is set for 6 a.m. EDT (1000 GMT or 11 a.m. local time), according to the BBC. You can watch live on YouTube, via the Associated Press.
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Hansen, who has been an astronaut since 2009, sat on stage with Trudeau just last week when the Artemis 2 crew visited Canada. Trudeau also gave Hansen personal congratulations for the astronaut's moon assignment, which was revealed on April 3, during a phone call captured on YouTube. During that call, Trudeau said he was "geeking out" about the mission.
No astronaut has ever participated in a coronation, given that the last such event, for Queen Elizabeth II, was on June 2, 1953, predating human spaceflight by eight years. The Queen and her consort Prince Philip (the Duke of Edinburgh), however, did have numerous connections with the space program after it arose.
The Queen and Duke hosted cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin at Buckingham Palace in 1961, the same year Gagarin became the first person in space, according to the official Royal Family website. The Royals' first of many listed visits to a NASA center was in 1966, and in 1969 they met with NASA's Apollo 11 astronauts.
In 2011, the Queen and the Duke gave a reception at Buckingham Palace to meet with Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut in space. Four years later, Her Majesty sent a message of congratulations to U.K. astronaut Tim Peake when he reached the International Space Station (ISS).
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Canadian space links are also deep with the Royals. Retired CSA astronaut Julie Payette, for example, was Governor General herself between 2017 and 2021 before resigning amid toxic workplace allegations. She was not invited to the Queen's funeral in 2022, according to the Toronto Star.
One Canadian astronaut has connections with both the Queen, who died at age 96 on Sept. 8, 2022, as well as the King. CSA astronaut Chris Hadfield received personal congratulations from the Queen in 2013 when he assumed command of the ISS, the first Canadian to do so. Hadfield also met with King Charles III personally in February 2023 to discuss sustainability in space.
Canada is a member of the Commonwealth, a group of 56 countries "with historic links to the United Kingdom," according to Global Affairs Canada. These countries previously had connections with the now-disbanded British Empire.
Modern-day Canada has been linked to the U.K. since the early 1600s, with slow moves toward sovereignty over the centuries. The Dominion of Canada was created among four U.K. colonies in 1867. The maple leaf-adorned Canadian flag Hansen will bear at the ceremony was unveiled in 1965, after decades of Canada using variants of the U.K.-inspired Red Ensign. It was only in 1982 that Canada patriated its constitution from the U.K. To this day, the Canadian parliamentary system is based on the U.K. model.
Critics of colonialism in Canada point out that Indigenous peoples in particular were uprooted and decimated by incoming Europeans, which also included the French and Spanish. That said, Canada is working on reconciliation with its Indigenous peoples, including naming Simon in 2021 as its first Indigenous Governor General. Simon was born in Kangiqsualujjuaq in the far north of Quebec, and her mother is Inuk.
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.