Who is Canada’s next space superstar?

The big news: the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster explained, and diplomacy falters in Syria

AP/Dmitry Lovetsky

Outside of hockey, where every small town grooms its own future heroes, Canadian sports icons don’t tend to come in bunches. We pick our favourites, treat them as royalty, and watch them ride into the sunset.

Even when there’s a next big thing emerging into stardom, and that’s never a given, we don’t make it easy on them. Who could ever fill the nimble shoes of Steve Nash, the basketball hero who claimed the NBA’s MVP award twice in a row? Who could win our hearts after the golfer Mike Weir, who could do no wrong on the world stage for a couple of years, faded away? How will the country move on from Milos Raonic, the young tennis phenom and the country’s best hope for a major win? The answers to those questions may be Andrew WigginsGraham DeLaet and Filip Peliwo, if they each can catch the national zeitgeist. Or, well, maybe not, but the point is these folks tend to get their shot in single file.

The same goes for space. Chris Hadfield was all of a sudden an international rock star of an astronaut. The former commander of the International Space Station found fame on Twitter, where he amassed over a million followers while he orbited the earth and played guitar and snapped photos and chummed around, virtually, with everyone on terra firma. Before he could even fully recover his body mass, Hadfield retired. Who’s next in line?

Jeremy Hansen, quite possibly. The 37-year-old London, Ont., native who used to fly CF-18 fighter jets is one of two astronauts in Canada’s space program. The other is David Saint-Jacques. Both are emerging from Hadfield’s shadow. Yesterday, Postmedia followed Hansen to an air show in Gatineau, Que., across the Ottawa River from the nation’s capital, to ask him about following Hadfield’s lead. “I guess my background, my training, is such that I know not to feel pressure,” he said. But Hansen, who wowed the crowd by flying an old CF-86 Sabre, is active on Twitter, and he’s slowly developing a following as he exuberantly tweets the finer details of myriad training and research expeditions that take him across the globe.

In 2016, either Hansen or Saint-Jacques—who also tweets, in both official languages to boot—may head into space for the first time. They have three years to remind the country that there’s more to Canadian space ambition than the strumming Hadfield. They just had to wait their turn.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail  A broken piston in a locomotive’s engine triggered the Lac-Mégantic disaster.
National Post  John Kerry warned that Syria must quickly turn over chemical weapons.
Toronto Star  A Toronto cop was convicted of using excessive force during G20 protests.
Ottawa Citizen  Four companies that secured millions in real estate funding are bankrupt.
CBC News  Parliament’s prorogation unofficially kicks off the next election campaign.
CTV News  Four men who raped an Indian woman on a bus were sentenced to death.
National Newswatch  Leads with Greg Weston’s CBC story, above, about prorogation.

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