(Houston) We will know Monday morning who will be the first Canadian in history to venture beyond Earth orbit.

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency will introduce the four astronauts who will lead the next stage of an ambitious plan to establish a long-term presence on the Moon.

The crew will be made up of three Americans and a Canadian, making Canada and the United States the only two countries to venture so far into space.

Artemis II is scheduled to launch as early as November 2024 and will be the first crewed mission to the Moon since the last Apollo mission flew in 1972.

The crew will orbit the Earth, and propel themselves hundreds of thousands of miles away for a figure-8 maneuver around the Moon, before their momentum carries them home.

The plan is to put a man and a woman on the Moon in 2025 with a view to the ultimate goal: eventually sending astronauts to Mars.

President Joe Biden spoke of this goal last month in his speech to Parliament, seizing the Artemis mission as a towering symbol of Canada’s limitless potential, neck and neck with the United States.

“We choose to return to the moon, together,” enthused President Biden, echoing famous words spoken by John F. Kennedy in 1962.

“Here on Earth, our children watching this flight will learn the names of these new pioneers. They will be the ones who will carry us into the future we hope to build: the Artemis generation. »

The current corps of Canadian astronauts is made up of just four people, including David Saint-Jacques, an astrophysicist and doctor from Montreal and the only member of the group who has ever been to space.

Mr. Saint-Jacques, 53, flew to the International Space Station in 2018. He was selected in 2009 alongside Ontarian Jeremy Hansen, 47, colonel and CF-18 pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

In 2017, two Albertans swelled the ranks of the group: test pilot and Royal Canadian Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Joshua Kutryk, 41, and Jennifer Sidey, 34, a mechanical engineer and course at the University of Cambridge.

“This is a great moment for humanity,” said Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne on Sunday after visiting the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where he had the opportunity to talk with astronauts and visit Mission Control.

“This time, Canada is making history with our American friends… It’s not even a new chapter. To me, it’s almost like a new book on space exploration. »