Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield said the federal government should take seriously the potential of Canada’s space program, including by setting aside funding for it, or risk being left behind as other countries race to settle the moon and explore the solar system.

“It’s got to make it into the budget,” said Hadfield, the first Canadian to command the International Space Station, in an interview with CTV News Channel.

Advances in technology, he added, are “opening the whole solar system to us” and “we don’t want to miss the boat.”

Hadfield’s comments come on the heels of a two-day visit to Ottawa from Jim Bridenstine, the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, who called on the Canadian government to continue its decades-long space partnership with the U.S. by providing both technology and astronauts.

The U.S. is seeking international support as it begins creating its new Lunar Gateway, a next-generation space station it is planning to send into orbit around the moon in 2021.

Canada would be foolish not to leverage its history as a pioneer in space technology and expertise in artificial intelligence and robotics to support these projects, Hadfield said, noting that the Canadarm is on the $5 bank note.

“We should play to our strengths,” he said. “Our people are trusted and we should build on that.”

Canadian physician-astrophysicist David Saint-Jacques is an example of this reliance, Hadfield said. In December, Saint-Jacques will pilot the rocket as he heads to the International Space Station, marking the first trip to orbit for a Canadian astronaut since Hadfield returned to Earth five years ago.

“It’s a big responsibility for him,” Hadfield told CTV News Channel. “He’s an amazing guy and I’ll be cheering for him the whole way.”