A.E. Peacock Collegiate student Avery Surtees was practically over the moon with excitement after introducing Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen before his presentation and then meeting him afterward.
The Grade 12 student joined University of Saskatchewan graduate Abdul Alabi on stage on Feb. 9 to welcome the former 15 Wing trainee to Moose Jaw. Both youths were summer students for the library last year, and since the library organized the event, they were asked to help.
Surtees — who will study aerospace engineering at Florida Tech University next fall — came with an astronaut-themed backpack and a space-themed T-shirt that read, “Eat, sleep, no (mission) scrub, repeat.”
“It was really cool. This probably one of the, like, most exciting days so far in my life,” she said. “And Jeremy is just one of my Canadian heroes and someone I look up to — all the astronauts (really) — and so just to meet him today, like, I’m ecstatic.”
To welcome the airman to the stage by saying “Canadian astronaut, Jeremy Hansen” was a “pretty big deal,” she remarked. Meanwhile, she stressed somewhat beforehand about what T-shirt to wear since she has many space-themed ones — a sign of her love for the cosmos.
Surtees became interested in space in Grade 7 after she began watching videos of Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian astronaut to perform extravehicular activity in outer space. That passion stayed with her in high school, and during the pandemic, she consumed numerous videos of rocket launches — something she continues to do today.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of the night, I’ll wake up at 3 a.m.,” she said.
Surtees also commended her science teacher, Stephen Lys, for being so passionate about space, which she thought was a great encouragement for her.
“I’m very excited for them to go back to the moon. I’m very excited to see a Canadian finally go to the moon,” she added. “It’s one thing to seeing the Americans go — I love all the American astronauts — but to see someone from close to home go, it’s a pretty big deal.
“It’s an encouragement that dreams are possible … .”
Another high school student who interacted with Hansen was Georgia Greenough, a warrant officer second class in No. 40 Snowbird Air Cadet Squadron. Her role was to ask the astronaut questions that the elementary students had submitted beforehand.
“(Hansen was) a really cool individual and it was awesome to get to ask him those questions,” she said.
Greenough liked the astronaut’s presentation overall, saying he took the right approach by telling the kids about the lessons he had learned in life and that it was important to treat people well.
“It’s really cool to see the humility within someone who gets to do something super cool,” she remarked.
Greenough also enjoyed seeing a picture of the Earth rising above the moon’s horizon that the Apollo astronauts took decades ago. She noted that a new generation of Canadian and American astronauts would be able to take similar pictures when they travelled around the moon in 2025.
The air cadet added that while she wants to study medicine after high school, she wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to become an astronaut.