Astronaut candidates' profiles

The candidates participating in the astronaut selection process all have unique journeys and outstanding qualities and skills. You can read their remarkable profiles here.

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Top 32 candidates

Here are the candidates who made it to the Top 32 in the 2017 Canadian astronaut recruitment campaign.

Bamsey, Matthew

Matthew Bamsey

Where were you born?
Burlington, Ontario, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Bremen, Germany

Education

  • Bachelor's, aerospace engineering – Carleton University
  • Master's, bioastronautics – University of Colorado
  • Ph.D., environmental biology – University of Guelph

What is your current job?

Chief systems engineer, EDEN ISS Project, German Aerospace Center - The EDEN ISS project is developing a greenhouse that will be sent to the German Antarctic station, Neumayer III. It will provide the station's 9-10 overwinterers with fresh food throughout the year while testing various technologies that will keep astronauts alive on long-duration space missions. I am responsible for helping engineers and scientists from our 14 worldwide partners design and manufacture their hardware, to build and test the facility here in Germany and later, to deploy the facility to Antarctica.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

The simple answer: exploration. Humans need to explore. We need to be doing something outside of our "day to day" to push boundaries, to come up with new ideas, to understand what is possible. Exploration is not just going to a new place, but it is also investigating new areas of research, advancing relations between people and, on a personal level, trying new things (subjects in school, hobbies, etc.). This is the only way to gain new perspective and understanding and to find out what may be even more important to humankind in the future.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

I selected to study aerospace engineering because I desired to build hardware that would fly, in particular associated with human space flight. I studied environmental biology because for long-duration space flight, closing up the water, air and food loops will be crucial, and plants can do all three. This integration of technology and biology (plants and humans) means research in this field is always interesting. The pull of space technology required for space greenhouses can also provide considerable benefit here terrestrially.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

Although I have had many teachers who had an important impact on my life, my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Bruce, was the one who influenced me most. In addition to being an amazing teacher (and just a genuinely great person), it was his passion that was unmatched. Seeing someone who is so passionate about what they are doing taught me a tremendous amount about the importance of following your interests to find a career you love. Finding your passion is one of the most important things someone can get out of school. Thanks, Mr. Bruce!

What do you like best about your job?

I have been fortunate to be able to forge a project from idea to deployment. There is something special about working on a small team with an idea (an Antarctic greenhouse to test technologies for space!), having that idea come to fruition with a proposal, and now helping lead a large international team to actually implement such an exciting project. I love my job because of the great mix of analysis and actual hands-on work, the international flavour and the fact that the project is an excellent space outreach tool. Another bonus is that the project involves travel to Antarctica!

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

There have been so many great explorers I admire, but my real heroes are my parents. They gave me the complete flexibility to follow my dreams and pursue whatever was of most interest to me, and they continue to be supportive today. They also taught me a great deal about the importance of always treating others with respect, including those people you do not know, putting extra energy and time to invest in such things. This side of human spirit is what makes me admire them and gives me so much confidence in the goodness of people in general.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

Both classics, but possibly Silent Running and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Silent Running has obvious ties to space-based plant production/greenhouses, and I love Invasion of the Body Snatchers just because of how it ends. Crazy! For non-sci-fi movies, I would have to go with Bon Cop, Bad Cop.

What is your motto?

Life is good. And it is!

If you get chosen to be the next Canadian astronaut what will be the first thing you do?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

I have had some truly phenomenal bosses and mentors in my career, and I have learned something different from all of them, but one very important theme has been to lead by doing and thus even as a leader be ready to do the boring or unrewarding tasks. One other source of advice I look back to often is a book that my mom gave me when I left home for university for the first time. The book is filled with good advice "just in case I may have missed an item or two at home," she said with a smile.

What is your most treasured possession?

When my dad retired, one of his first projects was to build my brother and me a canoe each. The cedar strip canoe that he built from scratch is my most treasured possession, as he put a tremendous amount of effort into making it. Also, I am presently living outside Canada, and it represents an important part of home. Each time I think about it, I remember previous adventures out in the wilderness and at the family's cottage. A canoe has always been an important tool for exploration and adventure in Canada.

What is your favourite place on Earth?

I feel very fortunate that my wife and I have had the chance to live and work in a number of different places in Canada and worldwide. Each experience brings something different, and that is what makes travelling to different places so rewarding. If I were forced to pick one place, though, it would be the Canadian Arctic. If only all Canadians could have the opportunity to see this majestic place! A close second would be a space museum.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I consider my greatest achievement to be that I have been able to become a "participatory researcher" in that I have had the opportunity to directly participate in employing experiments or hardware that I have developed into various extreme environments. This has included conducting work over ten summers in the Arctic (Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse), participating in a four-month Moon–Mars simulation, participating in several parabolic flight campaigns during postdoctoral work in Florida, and now working on an Antarctic project. I have been fortunate to have been able to share these experiences via presentations with students of various ages.

What is your favourite book?

As a space history book collector, it is tough to pick just one. Unfortunately, all of our books from our home library (I miss that room!) are currently sitting in a storage locker in St-Bruno-de-Montarville waiting for our return to North America. If I had to make a choice, it would probably be either Deke! by Deke Slayton or Apollo: An Eyewitness Account by Astronaut/Explorer Artist/Moonwalker Alan Bean (amazing artwork – definitely a good one to be left out on the coffee table).

DeLorey, Alex

Alex DeLorey

Where were you born?
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Milton, Ontario, Canada

Education

  • Bachelor's, mechanical engineering – University of New Brunswick

What is your current job?

Project Manager for the Components and Feeder Design, Bruce Major Component Replacement Project - My team and I are in the design phase of preparing to refurbish up to six nuclear reactors on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario. Our mandate is to replace the major components with a new generation of components designed to increase the lifespan of the reactors.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

This is an exciting position on an important team that allows us to push the boundaries of our knowledge and capabilities further while inspiring others to do the same. We are at an exciting time in this field, and to be a part of it is a great honour.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

A keen interest in all things mechanical and applicable physics.

I have always wanted to do work that makes meaningful contributions and allows me to continue learning and pursuing my interests throughout my career. A degree in engineering has allowed me to follow both of those desires.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

My grade 11 and 12 physics teacher continuously encouraged us to keep learning. He would often send us out of class to come up with and perform small experiments and report back our findings. When we were stuck or didn't understand something, he was able to guide us to learn in a way that we understood and applied to the next lesson. He was also involved in many activities outside the classroom, showing us that we can pursue many paths to achieve success.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy the people I work with the most. We are a dedicated team performing interesting and challenging work. We support one another and are always available to help ensure we do the best job possible. Our engineering work is very complex and requires too many inputs for any one person to hold all of the knowledge, allowing us to work closely together.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

I admire people who have worked hard and faced difficulties while standing for their cause. Two people I admire most who demonstrate these traits are Malala Yousafzai and Elon Musk. Ms. Yousafzai has done a great deal to bring attention to women's rights all over the world. Mr. Musk has used his abilities to further our technology and has dedicated himself to continuing to push us further.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

Star Trek.

What is your motto?

Be prepared: tomorrow will come.

At what age did you decide to become an astronaut?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

Boost up those around you and surround yourself with people who boost you up.

What is your most treasured possession?

A small piece of climbing rope my best friend and I used when we used to rock climb outdoors.

What is your favourite place on Earth?

Snowboarding down one of the Purcell Mountains after just being dropped off by a helicopter.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement is being a part of the National Research Universal reactor vessel repair, where we repaired a leak in the small aluminum vessel to bring the reactor back online and enable it to deliver medical isotopes to help detect and treat cancer.

What is your favourite book?

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.

Frenzel, Francis James

Francis James Frenzel

Where were you born?
Newmarket, Ontario, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Petersburg, Ontario, Canada

Education

  • Bachelor's, physics & English language and literature – Western University
  • Master's, aerospace engineering – University of Toronto

What is your current job?

Pilot-in-training, Royal Canadian Air Force - In between training I am posted to Canadian Forces Base Trenton, where I work in operations. I help coordinate the flights of Canada's largest squadron.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

It is inherently human to want to explore and discover the unknown. As powerful as these experiences can be while bound to Earth, it is a profound and beautiful pursuit to push human capabilities into such an exotic and unforgiving environment as space. It truly is "the final frontier." I love this country and take pride in serving the nation; what better way to do so than by inspiring the next generation of dreamers?

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

Since childhood I've been fascinated by the development of space technologies. Couple this with a passion for intelligent robotics, and it is no surprise that I completed my master's at the University of Toronto's Space Robotics Lab under Professor D'Eleuterio.

I completed my undergraduate in both physics and English literature because I believe these disciplines provide a well-rounded educational experience, coupling the most fundamental scientific knowledge with the most profound truths of the human experience.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

While I was only fortunate enough to have him teach me math and art for one year, I will never forget the impact Mr. Abbobot had on my education. First and foremost, he was enthusiastic and passionate about everything he did. This was contagious and when the children saw how interesting the teacher found the material, everyone was motivated to learn all they could. Secondly, by teaching both math and art, he covered a spectrum of topics and conveyed the message that you should learn whatever you want, but put your all into it at every moment.

What do you like best about your job?

Two things stand out about my job with the Royal Canadian Air Force. I take a great deal of pride in being able to contribute directly to Canada. Growing up in Canada gave me a wealth of opportunities, and it is gratifying to give back, ensuring that future generations are able to enjoy the same livelihood I was fortunate enough to have. I also value the emphasis within the Canadian Armed Forces on professional development and education. I have taken many full-time courses, and this is critically important as lifelong learning is fundamental to being the best you can.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

My parents.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

Total Recall… the old one… with Arnold.

What is your motto?

Two things in life shall never frustrate or inhibit you: that which you can help, and that which you cannot.

At what age did you decide to become an astronaut?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

As typical as it may sound, chase your dreams and do what you love. No matter what the pay, the chances of actually getting the job, or how difficult the road is to get there, you have to chase what you want. You owe it to yourself. With only one life to live, how can you not decide to do something you are passionate about?

What is your most treasured possession?

My library.

What is your favourite place on Earth?

My two best friends have neighbouring cottages on Lake Huron near Kincardine, Ontario. The three of us basically grew up there during the summers. Every time we are there it is easy to reflect on the past and the direction in which we have steered our lives.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Climbing Gunung Agung in Bali through the night and reaching the top with enough time to watch the entire sunrise from the summit.

What is your favourite book?

Dante's Divine Comedy.

Fulford, Vanessa

Vanessa Fulford

Where were you born?
Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada

Education

  • Bachelor's, space science – Royal Military College of Canada
  • Master's, flight test and evaluation – National Test Pilot School

What is your current job?

Flight Test Engineer, Royal Canadian Air Force, Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment - I work in the Fighter and Trainer Evaluations Section, primarily with the CF188 Hornet. Alongside the test pilots in my section, I work to ensure that any new equipment and software for the Hornet works correctly and safely. On the ground I plan to ensure we are prepared to collect the required data. While in the air I relay test parameters to the test pilot so they can perform the manoeuvres, while I collect data and observe aircraft reactions.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

My motivation for becoming a Canadian astronaut is threefold. I have always hungered for discovery, learning experiences, and the knowledge that comes with each new adventure. Second, I truly believe that it is through the exploration of space that we will generate the technologies needed to further the human race. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I want to be a role model for future generations. I take pride in motivating and exciting people about the possibilities of the future and the amazing things that they can experience.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

I chose space science because I wanted to be an astronaut. Of the programs offered at the Royal Military College, space science interested me the most and was a big contributor in me deciding to join the military, as RMC was one of the few schools that offered a program of that nature.

I became a flight test engineer because I love to explore and learn. In flight test, you have the opportunity to break boundaries and be part of the team that does something for the first time, be it flying in a new configuration or a new aircraft.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

My grade nine science teacher had a huge impact on my life. She encouraged my passion for science, and fuelled my love of adventure by encouraging me to join our high school travel club. This club focused on adventure travel to places a little out of the ordinary; during my three years in the club I travelled to Egypt, Thailand, and Guatemala. These trips focused on adventure, like climbing active volcanos or riding camels in the desert and sleeping under the stars. Also before the trip, we spent the year learning about the language and the culture of our destinations.

What do you like best about your job?

One of the best parts of my job is flying in jets. There is no experience like it; every time I strap into the CF188 I feel the same anticipation and excitement as the engines go into afterburner and rocket us off the ground. Looking over the horizon at 40,000 feet or flying almost the speed of sound only 500 feet above the ground, every experience is exhilarating. But overall I love being part of the team that provides aerospace test and evaluation expertise and is at the forefront of supporting the operational capabilities of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

Someone who I find very inspiring is one of my flight test instructors from the National Test Pilot School: Nicola Pecile. Along with a distinguished military career as a fighter pilot, he is one of the rare pilots qualified as a "dual" test pilot on both fixed and rotary test aircraft, and in August 2015 he was appointed as a pilot with Virgin Galactic. As a flight test instructor, Nicola genuinely cared that you had a clear understanding of the material, and while airborne helped make you feel confident in both your test directing and flying skills.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

My favourite sci-fi movie is Gattaca. As someone who wears glasses, I identified with the main character, Vincent, who is denied his dream because of his so-called "inferior genes." His way of making it into the space program isn't the most ethical, but he never gave up on his aspirations. I find it inspirational to give 100% of your effort to your dreams and not be disheartened by those who tell you that you cannot do something.

What is your motto?

For a motto I'd borrow the words "keep looking up" from Neil deGrasse Tyson (or maybe it was Snoopy?). Every time I see a jet fly by, I find myself stopping to watch it zoom past. It makes me smile to think of how amazing it is that forty thousand pounds of metal can move that fast. I find it is the same with the night stars; on a clear night, no matter how cold it is, I always stop and take a second to gaze up at the constellations, wondering what wonderful discoveries are waiting for us out there.

If you get chosen to be the next Canadian astronaut what will be the first thing you do?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

The best career advice I've ever received was to try out to be a flight test engineer. I was a bit reluctant to apply, thinking I wasn't smart enough or tough enough. But a colleague who had been through the process encouraged me to apply, and I made it! Going through the selection process and then on to Test Pilot School taught me to have more confidence in myself and my abilities. Now instead of limiting myself I look forward to the future and am excited by the challenges and opportunities ahead.

What is your most treasured possession?

As a good Albertan I'm tempted to say my new truck… but my most treasured possession is the portable hard drive I use to back up all my photos. Most of the photos I have are from my travels and hold all the memories of the amazing adventures that I have had with my friends and family. I love to look back on them and remember all the incredible things I've been fortunate enough to experience, which always inspires me to start planning my next adventure!

What is your favourite place on Earth?

My favourite place on Earth is the beach. I love the smell of the ocean and the sounds of the waves as they crash on the beach. I prefer a tropical beach so you can also lie in the sand and enjoy the warmth of the sun. I have many fond memories of the beaches to which I've travelled around the world: learning to scuba dive, learning to surf, relaxing with friends, or watching the sun set over the waves. All the aspects of the beach just equate to happiness for me.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement so far has been graduating from Test Pilot School. It was an extremely challenging year but at the same time the greatest year of my life. The academics were interesting, the flying was incredible, and I made many talented and wonderful friends. I pushed myself to do things I didn't think that I could and gained a high level of confidence in my own abilities. To have completed the same training as many of the flight test legends, including the first astronauts, gives me an incredible sense of pride and accomplishment.

What is your favourite book?

There are too many to choose from! Some my top contenders would have to be The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The Martian by Andy Weir. The Time Traveler's Wife appealed to me because along with the sci-fi element of time travel there was also romance, but a real romance that showed the complexity of any relationship. The Martian was also a great read—an amazing story of perseverance loaded with science but also with humour.

Jordan, Michael Anthony

Michael Anthony Jordan

Where were you born?
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Jupiter, Florida, USA

Education

  • Bachelor's, computer software – Royal Military College of Canada
  • Postgraduate Certificate, flight dynamics – Cranfield University
  • Qualified Test Pilot Certification – Empire Test Pilots' School

What is your current job?

Lead DND Test Pilot – CH148 Combined Test Force (CTF) - Embedded with Sikorsky / Lockheed Martin's Development Flight Center, the CTF participates in the planning, execution, and reporting of all Developmental Test & Evaluation activities of the Fly-by-Wire CH148 Cyclone Helicopter. These activities include the development of adaptable flight control laws; defining Ship Helicopter Operating Limits; ensuring safe separation, and accuracy, of weapons/stores; extreme weather testing; mission systems evaluations; development of procedures; acceptance of aircraft and simulators; and Human Factors Engineering. The CTF works directly with the prime contractors, with the goal of delivering the best possible aircraft to the Canadian Armed Forces.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

My goal of becoming an astronaut has been with me since my earliest memories. I never questioned that goal, but knew I needed to do everything in my power to achieve it. Gaining knowledge about our place in this vast universe, I became increasingly compelled to venture past the boundaries of this "pale blue dot" we call home. The human species seems to be at the cusp of embarking on an evolutionary step that will define our continued existence. It would be an honour to be a part of that step and to share the journey with the world.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

Pursuing a piloting career, and becoming a military test pilot, was always my assumed path to becoming an astronaut; I never seriously considered any other career, but knew that I would need an academic background commensurate with the requirements of the space program. I was born with an innately logical mind, and have always gravitated towards the STEM curriculum. I found comfort in the scientific method and the derivation of incontrovertible truths. As I further refined my areas of interest, I discovered that computer software engineering was a limitless field that rewarded creative logic in the pursuit of efficient design.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

Independent of location (I moved around a lot growing up), the more memorable teachers/professors always seemed to reflect the passion that they saw in their students. Several of my early math and science teachers saw that I had an aptitude for STEM; they guided my logical/inquisitive nature and urged me to challenge myself with advanced study. The most positive impact came from teachers who challenged me to gain a deeper understanding of the material; they steered me towards constant curiosity and taught me that asking "why" (and occasionally challenging convention) was a path towards truly enjoying education.

What do you like best about your job?

As a qualified test pilot, I enjoy the balance between research, theory, engineering, and validation. Whether testing a new aircraft or modifications to an existing one, I enjoy working with others to achieve a set of objectives. The process of predicting behaviours/results, defining a plan to test the predictions, and flying the plan to collect truth data is extremely satisfying. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with so many outstanding individuals, with specializations across diverse disciplines – also satisfying is that the coalescence of many technically minded people leads to very interesting discussions about the future of technology.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

While it would be easy to admire the accomplishments of present/past astronauts or test pilots (and the entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers who envision/develop the technologies that enable the exploration of space), I feel that true admiration requires a more personal understanding of an individual. To that end, the person I admire the most is my father; he has, throughout his life and military career, acted in a manner that upholds the highest levels of personal integrity and honour. Through a largely passive influence, my father's unwavering personal values, and moral compass, became ingrained as part of my ethos.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

Mission to Mars (2000), starring Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, and Connie Nielsen
Mission to Mars was released during my second year at the Royal Military College of Canada. I saw it seven times in the theatre (amidst a heavy curriculum) and have watched it several times per year since then. While the movie had some questionable tangents, the spirit of exploration/teamwork portrayed by the cast resonated with me. At the time, the movie also offered the most dramatic visualization of Mars I had ever seen; Mars itself became one of the main characters – a most beautiful and inviting one.

What is your motto?

A quote from Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet: "This above all: To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man."

I have been well served by staying honest with myself; I aim not to exaggerate my accomplishments nor diminish them unjustly. Defining realistic goals, and evaluating them within the bounds of what I believe to be possible for me, has helped me approach each step of my career with reasoned optimism about the outcome.

Were you afraid of the dark when you were young?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

I recall, at an early age, that my father told me that I needed to work hard so that I could pursue a career that I loved; he then said, "If you do not love what you are doing in life, then you are not doing what you are meant to do." Though the advice is likely quite common, my father delivered it effectively. Knowing that I wanted to become an astronaut, I knew that I would not love doing anything that did not directly contribute to that goal – this made for relatively simple life choices.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have a passion for transformative technology; to that end, I have collected many unique items throughout my life – classic video games, defining pieces of computer technology, various pieces of space-related collectables, a Signature Series Tesla Model S, etc. – but I do not treasure those possessions. Worldly possessions are satisfying to own and can provide comfort, but what I treasure most are the experiences and relationships that I have had in my life (and the opportunities afforded by them as I look to the future).

What is your favourite place on Earth?

Oddly, given that I have travelled to over 30 countries (across 6 continents), I don't really have a "favourite place." I find pleasure/satisfaction wherever I happen to be, and take joy in the small things I notice around me. I have never longed to be anywhere (on this surface of this planet) other than where I find myself; perhaps this is because I know that I am always in a place that is contributing to achieving my dream of becoming an astronaut. If being in orbit could be considered "on Earth," that would easily be my favourite place.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

While I have achieved many things that have led me to this point in my career, I feel that I am on the path to my greatest achievement as I fill out this questionnaire. To be considered for the opportunity to represent Canada, as an ambassador to space, is the fulfillment of a childhood dream; every step towards that dream will become my greatest achievement. I hope to culminate this journey with a step that takes me to the surface of Mars, though even then I would be looking beyond the red planet, to the next challenge.

What is your favourite book?

At present: Andy Weir's The Martian (with original cover art).

I have spent most of my life favouring non-fiction (A Brief History of Time, The Elegant Universe, Faster Than the Speed of Light, GEB, etc.), but The Martian has become my favourite due to the fact that it may well be remembered as a catalyst for a global level of support towards the next frontier of space exploration. I believe that the immense success of The Martian is an indication that the general population is ready to support the agencies (and corporations) that aim to make humans a multi-planetary species.

Kroeker, Erik

Erik Kroeker

Where were you born?
Chatham, Ontario, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Urbana, Illinois, USA

Education

  • Bachelor's, mechanical and aerospace engineering – Princeton University
  • Master's, aerospace engineering – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Ph.D., aerospace engineering – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

What is your current job?

Staff scientist and university lecturer - I have two jobs. As a staff scientist, I work on fundamental satellite research for ongoing and upcoming missions. I am currently working on an optical navigation system for satellite rendezvous with asteroids. As a university lecturer, I teach students about the mechanics of space flight, simulating the motion of satellites, and the design of small spacecraft.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

The biggest reason I want to become an astronaut is to be able to share the incredible space science being done with a large audience. As an astronaut, not only would I be on the leading edge of space research, working with the best minds in the world who are tackling science's most challenging problems, but I would also be able to serve as a voice for that research.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

My love of satellites and spacecraft is rooted in the love of taking things apart to see how they work. I spent most of my youth disassembling and reassembling my toys; truth be told, I never stopped. Spacecraft are the pinnacle of complex machines. Being able to study them, take them apart, build them back up, and study to design my own was my main focus when it came to choosing a field to study.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

I was fortunate to have many exceptional teachers throughout my education. My high school math teacher does stand out – an eccentric, brilliant man with a love of all things math. The level of excitement he brought to the classroom was infectious. What set him apart was that nearly every lesson he taught involved some kind of story – he managed to turn math into story time and wove the lesson around his tale. Not only was it effective, but it also gave the lessons meaning. Whenever I teach, I always try to give my lessons that same kind of meaning because of him.

What do you like best about your job?

The part of my job I like the best is that I am constantly learning. Every problem I tackle is something completely new that has never been solved before. To solve these problems, I need to be constantly researching new and old techniques and discoveries to collect the necessary tools.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

Chris Hadfield – I always grew up with a deep admiration for astronauts, but Col. Chris Hadfield managed to bring space exploration to such a wide audience using such diverse media. His abilities to communicate and engage are tremendously impressive, and his dedication to Canada and to space exploration is inspirational. If I aspire to do anything, it is to live up to and extend the legacy he and other Canadian astronauts have fostered.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

The Empire Strikes Back.

What is your motto?

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing your best.

According to you, what is the most intriguing thing about space?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

If you pour every penny into your head, no one can ever take it away from you. The best advice I have ever received is that investing in education will always pay itself back. Regardless of how much you make financially, the value of that education and self-improvement will keep paying itself back again and again.

What is your most treasured possession?

When my grandmother passed away, she left me a small Space Shuttle pendant. It is a small trinket, but she treasured it because it was given to her by Roberta Bondar. It had sat on her dresser beside my grandfather's Legion pin, and it has been either on my dresser or around my neck ever since.

What is your favourite place on Earth?

In the middle of a lake. I love rowing, and any body of water big enough to row on is where I love to be.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Building a rowing team. I served as the volunteer Head Coach of the University of Illinois Rowing Club for eight years. When I started, the equipment was always on the verge of falling apart, the number of athletes was small, and we struggled to be competitive. When I was done, the club had brand new boats, the team had quadrupled in size, and we had won two national gold medals. The greatest satisfaction was sharing my joy of rowing with the hundreds of athletes I coached and knowing that the team continued to thrive even after I stepped aside.

What is your favourite book?

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman.

Kutryk, Joshua

Joshua Kutryk

Where were you born?
Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada

Education

  • Bachelor's, mechanical engineering – Royal Military College of Canada
  • Master's, aeronautical science (space studies) – Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Master's, flight test engineering – Air University
  • Master's, defence studies – Royal Military College of Canada

What is your current job?

Officer Commanding, Fighter Operational Test and Evaluation Flight - I am an experimental test pilot and a fighter pilot. Currently I lead the unit responsible for the operational flight testing of fighter aircraft in Canada. I work with a team of aerospace professionals in order to safely conduct the initial airborne evaluations of new technologies and systems on the CF-18. I have worked on a variety of test projects, ranging from out-of-control flying to automated navigation and flight control systems to weapon guidance and control. I also teach other pilots how to fly the CF-18 on demanding missions.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

As a child I was fascinated with space. I knew that my life would focus on helping explore it. As an adult, I realize human space exploration is important to us all as individuals and as Canadians. I have always wanted to leave the world a better place than I found it, and I believe that space is one area where I can do so. I want to serve Canadians in a way befitting my aptitudes and interests. I want to inspire them. Above all, I want to help humanity broaden its collective horizon.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

Physics and math were my favourite subjects in high school – I was continually amazed by how those subjects explained the world around me. I couldn't fly into space as a child, but I could fly into the atmosphere. I went for a ride in a light aircraft when I was nine years old. When we landed I knew that I wanted to fly, and that I wanted to understand in detail the science and engineering that made flying possible. I was inspired. My motivation to study aerospace at the highest levels had been set.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

When I was in grade six my teacher (his name was Ted) had just returned to Canada following an extended cycling trip to India. To me, this was an initial glimpse at the kind of exploratory and adventurous life I wanted to live. His stories of riding a bike across a foreign country inspired me and had a very real effect on later decisions I would make. In fact, I still stay in touch with him. He is a principal now at a school in Whitehorse, Yukon, where I was fortunate enough to spend a few childhood years.

What do you like best about your job?

As a test pilot, I have a job that combines two of my favourite things on a daily basis: engineering and high-performance flying. I like the challenges of testing new technical systems aboard high-performance jets, and I especially like the teamwork that goes into solving those challenges. I get to work with aerospace engineers, analysts, aircraft technicians, program managers and corporate executives, all with the goal of making the F-18 safer and more effective in its mission.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

Many of my real-life heroes are test pilots working on experimental spaceships for commercial space exploration ventures. Role models have played an important part in my life. Growing up I wanted to be like Amelia Earhart and Chuck Yeager because they challenged the accepted limits of the day. As a teenager, Neil Armstrong left a large impression on me because he combined academic rigour with test flying to help take humans to the moon. As an adult, I am motivated by Chris Hadfield, and I admire Elon Musk's ambitious attempt to improve humanity's future despite daunting odds.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

2001: A Space Odyssey. (There is a lot that we can all learn from HAL!)

What is your motto?

Live passionately so that you may learn about the world. Learn about the world so that you may play a part in making it better.

According to you, what is the most intriguing thing about space?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

Throughout my life, my father would instruct me to seek out new experiences. He maintained that pursuing a wide balance and breadth of experience was the key to success. As a child this meant participating in a lot of extracurricular and community activities, even ones that didn't interest me at the time. As an adult, this advice has served me well both professionally and personally. I have learned to embrace new, unknown experiences and not to fear them. The advice remains a prominent factor in all my career decisions.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have an antique timepiece that my dad used as a child. His father passed it on to him, and it is entirely mechanical. To me it offers a unique perspective on the pace of human innovation. My father grew up in a house without running water or electricity, at a time where the majority of the food came directly from the family farm. Only one generation later, I frequently work from a newer house on that same farmyard, continually communicating with people all over the world using satellite technology. #amazinginnovation

What is your favourite place on Earth?

The farm where I grew up, on the prairie farmland of eastern Alberta. Having travelled the entire world, I am still struck by the tranquility of that particular Canadian landscape. Aside from a few Arctic mountaintops, there are few places where the night sky is as magnificent as it is there. It is also one of the quietest places I know.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

In 2012, while studying at the Edwards Flight Test Center (where humans first broke the speed of sound), the United States Air Force selected me to receive the Liethen-Tittle Award for top test pilot graduate. I was the first Canadian since Chris Hadfield to receive that recognition. This particular achievement has always been special to me. Receiving the award not only took a lot of academic work and test flying expertise, but it also required significant teamwork. The experience showed me what Canada could achieve internationally when working with foreign partners in aerospace fields.

What is your favourite book?

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. This true story is a testament to the power of the human spirit. If you have ever wondered just how much a small team can accomplish in terms of endurance, exploration and sheer survival, then you should read this book. You may find that doing so will leave you with a new understanding of the word "impossible."

Lajoie, Charles-Philippe

Charles-Philippe Lajoie

Where were you born?
Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Education

  • Ph.D., physics & astronomy – McMaster University

What is your current job?

Astronomical Optics Scientist (Level II) - I work on the James Webb Space Telescope, a project led by NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency. JWST will be bigger and more complex than any other space telescope, and my team and I are preparing for the on-orbit alignment of its 19 individual mirror segments. In a precise choreography, each mirror will be remotely controlled in order to form a near-perfect 6.5-metre mirror surface. We are currently testing the mirror hardware along with the flight software in one of NASA's clean rooms, as well as planning for the operations of this amazing observatory.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

As a kid growing up with images of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Apollo missions, becoming an astronaut has always been a dream, albeit one I knew is hard to reach. I also love pushing my limits and seeking new challenges and adventures, and I have always regarded an astronaut career as the embodiment of such a lifestyle. Now, with this opportunity to further Canada's space program and contribute to taking humankind back to the Moon and to Mars, I can only be grateful that another of my dreams might come true.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

Ever since I first saw Venus in the night sky around the age of 12, I have had a passion for astronomy and space. The fact that other planets can be seen with the naked eye simply amazed me and, from that age on, I was set on a career where I would study planets, stars, galaxies, and hopefully answer the question of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. Even to this day, with tens of exoplanets being discovered routinely, I can't help but still be excited by the wonders of space and astronomy!

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

My master's degree supervisor was a great mentor from whom I learned scientific and professional rigour as well as a strong sense of ownership and pride in my work. He never explicitly taught me these things, but rather he lived and worked by these principles. As a result, I believe I have grown into a capable scientist, producing quality research with a deep sense of integrity.

What do you like best about your job?

What I like best about my current job is that it is located at one of the world's top astronomy institutes. The opportunities to hear about the latest discoveries on exoplanets or high-redshift galaxies, among others, are numerous, and it's hard not to be excited for another day at work. I also get to work on some of the most amazing space telescope technology ever to be launched, along with some of the smartest people I have ever met. This combination of technology and people has made my current job very exciting and fulfilling.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

The people I have come to admire the most are my current team members, with whom I interact on a daily basis. They have contributed to the success of the Hubble Space Telescope, designed and built some of the most sensitive instruments used to detect faint exoplanets, and are now the visionaries of the future space telescopes. Their various backgrounds, experience, and personalities make them very effective and versatile assets to the JWST project, and I feel privileged to work with and learn from them.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

The Star Wars trilogy.

What is your motto?

Don't just stumble your way through life or wait for it to simply happen – chase your dreams actively and seize every occasion you get to fulfill them!

At what age did you decide to become an astronaut?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

Don't define yourself only by your academic degree; instead bank on your transferable skills. Having a degree provides you with expertise in your field but also with strong transferable skills that you can apply to a wide variety of jobs and situations.

What is your most treasured possession?

My guitar – I don't play it very often, but I have had it since I was 18 years old and I still treasure it.

What is your favourite place on Earth?

My family cabin, which we can only get to by boat or snowmobile. Remote, peaceful, and beautiful.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I consider my greatest and proudest achievement to be earning my Ph.D. in physics and astronomy while playing on the university men's lacrosse team. Although both of those endeavours required dedication and hard work, completing my Ph.D. without the liberating and stress-relieving benefits of competitive sports would certainly have been even harder!

What is your favourite book?

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Leuschen, Jason

Jason Leuschen

Where were you born?
Murrayville, British Columbia, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Education

  • Bachelor's, mechanical engineering – University of Saskatchewan

What is your current job?

Student pilot, Royal Canadian Air Force - I am training to become a helicopter pilot with the goal of flying search and rescue in the mighty CH-149 Cormorant! A good pilot must have in-depth knowledge of the aircraft, regulations and procedures, along with excellent coordination and fitness. Student pilots spend a great deal of time studying for upcoming missions in addition to "flying" flight simulators and practising visualization techniques. Sports and exercise are important to prepare the body for the rigours of g-forces, heat and cold. And occasionally they actually let us fly!

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

I fell in love with the sky growing up on a farm in The Land of The Living Skies (Saskatchewan, of course). Most days you were treated to an inspiring dawn, which would only be topped by the sunset that followed. Evenings in the field, without an artificial light in sight, I was held in rapture by the Milky Way, the northern lights and the moon. I'd drag my younger brother out to watch meteor showers and ponder our place in the universe. I have wanted to be an astronaut, to get a little closer to the heavens, ever since.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

In Grade 1 I stumbled upon science fairs as an outlet for my curiosity. That curiosity took me from baking soda volcanoes to robots via a detour into lasers. Designing and building robots gave me such joy that by Grade 8 I decided engineering was for me. All that remained was picking a specialty, and for someone fascinated by machines, aerospace presented the most extreme challenges. I spent extra evenings and weekends building rockets and working in my university's wind tunnel, eventually turning my passion into my career. To think it all started with a little curiosity!

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

My Grade 3 teacher, Mrs. Billo, recognized that the boy who kept disrupting her class was doing so because he was restless and bored. She cleverly harnessed my energy by assigning extra projects to occupy my mind (and in the process my mouth). Soon I was preparing learning centres for the class and giving extra presentations on science topics. In the process I discovered that I loved learning and could excel at school, and I've been doing extra homework ever since.

What do you like best about your job?

I love the team focus drilled into all members of the Royal Canadian Air Force from their first day. I get to meet great personal challenges with a fantastic team of instructors at my back and supportive peers at my side. The military makes training extremely demanding, in preparation for the environment we may have to operate in, and no one makes it through without help from their team. Despite the competitive nature of the training, each of us is willing to sacrifice to ensure the success of our peers because if they succeed, I succeed.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

My real-life heroes are military families. These spouses and children sacrifice time with their loved ones so that they can serve the country. The families have many reasons to worry and few reassurances while their loved ones are away from them. Through it all, most military families wear a brave face and support their members, so they are able to continue to do what they must.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

As a child of 1977, Star Wars loomed large across my childhood. Even now I can vividly recall the first time I saw Star Wars on TV and can still feel the excitement and wonder I felt. George Lucas took us into space, and onward to the surface of exciting alien planets. As a child, I built a Millennium Falcon cockpit in my basement and struggled to explain to my brother why his role as Chewbacca was so critical to the story (so I could be Han Solo, naturally).

What is your motto?

Along with boots and a flight suit, the military has been kind enough to have issued me a motto as well, Sic itur ad astra: such is the pathway to the stars. Of course I'm trusting the Royal Canadian Air Force on the translation; my Latin is rusty.

If you could bring anyone in space with you, who would you bring?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

As a farmer, my father was definitely more of an ant than a grasshopper and often counselled that there is no such thing as over-preparation. I drove truck for my father while searching for my first post-university job. During downtime while my truck was being loaded, I was studying esoteric wind tunnel books in preparation for a written exam as part of the NRC competition for an aerodynamicist. My extra efforts paid off as I was selected from a national pool of engineers, for one of two positions, and the only successful applicant without a doctorate.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have a replica of a 1965 Shelby Cobra that I built myself. It is an uncomfortable, unreliable, ill-tempered beast, but it's impossible not to smile when I've got it working just so and the weather is nice. From my greatest frustrations come my greatest victories.

What is your favourite place on Earth?

Since flying above it probably doesn't qualify as being "on Earth," I will have to go with my parents' farm, where I grew up, in Bruno, Saskatchewan. Except for when the mosquitoes are in full force.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Becoming a military pilot is my greatest achievement. The challenge started with several mind-melting selection tests leading to a coveted job offer. The three months of sleep and dignity deprivation that are basic training followed. Next was Phase I flight training, where we had too little time to demonstrate too many skills, and 40% of my classmates were washed out. 2015 brought Phase II flight training, a 10-month marathon of learning more than you think you can retain, and doing things with an airplane that initially seem certain to cause instant death, but somehow become routine by graduation.

What is your favourite book?

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Riddell, Robert

Robert Riddell

Where were you born?
Belleville, Ontario

Where do you currently live?
Ottawa, Ontario

Education

  • Bachelor's, chemical and materials engineering – Royal Military College of Canada
  • Bachelor's, biochemistry – University of Ottawa
  • Doctorate, medicine – Dalhousie University
  • Rural family medicine residency – University of Alberta

What is your current job?

Medical officer in the Canadian Armed Forces - I am a physician to Canadian Armed Forces personnel, both at home and while deployed on military operations.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

Unlike any job on Earth, being an astronaut would allow me to draw on the knowledge that I have gained from my formal education and the unique experiences I have had as a military officer and rural physician. I have thrived mentally and physically in some of the world's most hostile environments, and it would be an honour to build on this as a Canadian astronaut. Through the realm of space exploration, I would continue to push my own limits as well as the boundaries of science, medicine and technology.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

First and foremost, I became a physician because I have always been fascinated by human physiology and the ever-changing world of medicine. As a military officer I found it very rewarding when I could help my subordinates in their times of need. I wanted to build a career on this as a physician. Finally, I felt that being a physician would allow me to continue to challenge my leadership and decision-making skills in stressful, exciting environments.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

The first person who came to mind when reading this question was not a teacher per se but a university hockey coach, Jacques Tremblay. Through his actions he taught me that people will often work harder to keep trust than to gain it. This has greatly influenced my leadership approach in the military and in medicine.

What do you like best about your job?

In much the same way I want to be an astronaut, being a military physician combines the challenges of military operations with those of clinical medicine.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

Through my work as a military medical officer and as a rural emergency room physician, my heroes are those who live with serious illness. I am often humbled by their poise and outlook on life in the face of debilitating and sometimes terminal illnesses.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

What is your motto?

Facta non verba (deeds, not words).

Were you afraid of the dark when you were young?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

Always have options. Nearly every person has dreams and by all means they should pursue them, but always have a valid plan B (and C).

What is your most treasured possession?

My relationship with my wife (and no, she didn't make me say that).

What is your favourite place on Earth?

Anywhere with my family, a lake, a cottage, and no TV or phone.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement is having a successful career balanced with a great family life.

What is your favourite book?

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

Sidey, Jennifer Anne MacKinnon

Jennifer Anne MacKinnon Sidey

Where were you born?
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Cambridge, United Kingdom

Education

  • Bachelor's, mechanical engineering – McGill University
  • Ph.D., engineering – University of Cambridge

What is your current job?

Lecturer, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge - I study flames, how we use them, and how to stop them from emitting harmful pollutants. I also teach undergraduate and graduate students in the Fluids, Turbomachinery, and Energy division on topics ranging from conventional and alternative energy production to introductory thermodynamics or flame physics. Aside from these formal responsibilities, I always try to act as a role model for young women considering technical careers in science-related fields.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

I want to become an astronaut because it provides an incredible challenge. It aligns with my interests in the advancement and application of science for the benefit of society. It will also provide me with a platform from which I may inspire a diverse group of young people to pursue their interests in science and engineering subjects.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

I like to figure out how useful things work and, when I started studying engineering, I decided to study combustion because it is a fascinatingly complex process involving so many different phenomena. This complexity makes fire interesting and incredibly challenging to study. Beyond this specialization, I also knew academic research was the ideal job for me because it would mean I was always on the forefront of scientific discovery. I now have the opportunity to learn new things about useful combustion processes and apply what I know to make our energy and propulsion devices better.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

The special teachers who still stand out in my mind were the ones who went out of their way to provide me with whatever I needed to build my interest and foster my curiosity in subjects that I enjoyed. One teacher in particular had a unique capability to find out exactly what would excite her students. That level of attention and effort to engage students stands out as the most encouraging and impactful instruction I've ever received.

What do you like best about your job?

My favourite part of my job is the interaction I have with students. Whether it's through supervision in the laboratory or lecture theatre, I have a wonderful opportunity to teach young people about science and engineering. This is, I believe, the most exciting, unique, and satisfying part of my job.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

I look up to women who were early pioneers in engineering and science fields. These heroes include computer scientist Margaret Hamilton; astronauts Roberta Bondar, Julie Payette and Mae Jemison; and engineer Nancy Fitzroy. All of those women have had careers marked by bravery, skill, and incredible perseverance.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

Alien.

What is your motto?

Fortune favours the brave.

If you could bring anyone in space with you, who would you bring?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

The best advice I ever received was not to sweat the small stuff. In any career, there will be setbacks and difficult times. The best thing you can do is stay focused on a long-term goal and, even if it feels like you haven't progressed, make sure you don't get discouraged.

What is your most treasured possession?

Probably my bike!

What is your favourite place on Earth?

Vancouver Island.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement so far has been getting a lectureship at the University of Cambridge. My success here is outstanding and something I never truly thought would happen when I first arrived in the UK five years ago as a newly graduated engineer.

What is your favourite book?

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino.

Sirek, Adam

Adam Sirek

Where were you born?
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada

Education

  • Bachelor's, science – University of Toronto
  • Master's, science – University of Toronto
  • Diploma in higher education, medical sciences – Northumbria University
  • Doctorate, medicine – St. George's University

What is your current job?

Family physician - I take care of children, adolescents and adults as a family doctor in Windsor, Ontario. I am on staff at Leamington District Memorial Hospital, and I am faculty at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry where I teach medical students and residents.

Captain, Royal Canadian Air Force - On weekends, I am a reservist in the Canadian Armed Forces supporting the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. Here, I serve as a pilot and am the deputy operations officer of a cadet flying site. We promote citizenship, leadership, physical fitness, and an interest in aviation for youth in our communities.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

I have always loved both aviation and medicine. I learned to fly at age 16, and pursued science and medicine at school. Science and experiments performed on orbit has led to improvements for all of humanity, and this has been a driving factor in all of my aerospace medicine training. Being involved in cutting-edge research in space, and then helping to translate its application to terrestrial domains, is an exciting thing for me.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

My grandparents were scientists at the University of Toronto. I was inspired by the work they did with Dr. Charles Best after the initial discovery of insulin. Their influence and stories sparked my interest in science and research, ultimately leading to my training in physiology and pursuit of graduate education. They both encouraged me to apply to medical school to explore the practical application of my studies in physiology.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

In high school, I had a teacher who was a constant source of encouragement. His courses in philosophy and world religions always pushed me to think critically and to challenge my own assumptions. His influence has helped me countless times in meeting and working with people of diverse backgrounds.

What do you like best about your job?

Family physicians see people at their best and at their worst. I consider myself fortunate to be in a profession that is meant to help people. It is an extremely fulfilling and impactful profession that makes a difference in our communities.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

My wife. She is kind and caring, thoughtful and compassionate. Without a doubt, she is the rock in my life and has remained my support through medical school, residency and my medical practice. While being supportive of my efforts and training, she pursued her own dreams and is now a professor at the University of Windsor.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

Star Trek.

What is your motto?

Per ardua ad astra – Through adversity to the stars, happily borrowed from the Royal Canadian Air Force.

What were your grades like in high school? Did you ever think you were not smart enough to pursue a career as an astronaut?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

Look at every problem as a new opportunity. Every situation has countless solutions, and you never know what the process will teach you about yourself and the world around you.

What is your most treasured possession?

My wings.

What is your favourite place on Earth?

Muskoka.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement in life thus far has been opening my own medical practice and beginning my journey of serving patients as their family doctor. It has been very rewarding meeting people and helping them with their care.

What is your favourite book?

I have no favourite book, but love anything that I can read with my two kids.

Sleno, Nathalie

Nathalie Sleno

Where were you born?
St. Albert, Alberta, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Education

  • Bachelor's, science – University of Alberta
  • Doctorate, medicine – University of Manitoba
  • Family medicine residency – University of Alberta

What is your current job?

Medical officer, team lead, 1 Field Ambulance Detachment, Yellowknife - I am team lead for 1 Field Ambulance Detachment Yellowknife, assisting in building and managing the unit to provide efficient, effective and accessible care. I do direct patient care for the military personnel, including Joint Task Force North, the Canadian Rangers, and supporting unit members. I act as medical advisor for the North. I also act as aviation medical officer, managing aeromedical issues and concerns, for 440 Squadron, an Air Force unit that conducts airlift, utility and liaison flights in support of Canadian Armed Forces activities and the Cadets in the North.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

It would be the greatest achievement—and the ultimate experience—to participate in the forefront of science! To be so closely involved in the greatest frontier, as we continue to push limits and pursue knowledge, would be a dream come true. It serves humanity as a whole, without borders or division. What is gained through space exploration is gained for the whole human race. I would only dream of being so privileged.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

I wanted to be a pilot since I was a child, and was in training when my mother got sick. She passed away soon after. A few years later my son got sick. These events triggered my motivation to go into medicine. I had many questions and the more questions I had, the more my answers were leading me to medicine. I took a few turns along the way, but the long path to medicine gave me valuable experiences in research and aerospace physiology, and has enriched my current path, which I'm grateful for.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

I have had a number of great teachers, but the first who came to mind is my high school math teacher, Mr. Reinbolt. He had a way of reaching us without us being aware of his efforts. He was knowledgeable, patient, and cool-headed. He had a quiet way of encouraging and motivating, and I always looked forward to his class. He was a reference for me when I joined the military and was one of the first people I told when I got accepted as a pilot.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy the challenge and the dynamic role that is asked of me in this unique environment. The location is amazing and offers so many great adventures, but the north can be isolating and harsh. There are some medical concerns that arise unique to this area: the isolation, the cold, the dark, and the environmental risks in these northern operations. The clinic is run differently from most as well. Cooperation and coordination with local resources is a key aspect, enabling me to engage with the community. The responsibilities are extensive and I work with some amazing people.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

I most admire my husband, Jeff. We've had some challenges keeping our family together while I fulfill my duty as a longstanding member of the Canadian Armed Forces. He has continued to rise to the challenge, accepting what life has offered us and providing stability for our family. He has had to sacrifice his goals for the sake of our family. I admire his willingness, his courage, his generosity and his strength. He motivates me to be my best self, and I respect his opinion above all others.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

This was a hard one. There are a few that come to mind. The one I keep coming back to, though, is Aliens with Sigourney Weaver.

What is your motto?

The message I try to live by is "Have faith, work hard and have no fear."

What would you do if you met aliens?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

A friend of mine once told me that he sees everything as an opportunity, especially when you think things aren't going as planned. This stuck with me and has been the best advice.

What is your most treasured possession?

What comes to mind are the things I'm most grateful for: my faith, my family and my friends.

What is your favourite place on Earth?

My favourite place is Canada as a whole. I have some fond memories in almost every province and territory. I've loved canoeing through Algonquin Park, skiing and hiking in the Rockies, ice fishing in the territories, swimming in any one of the many rivers across Canada, and watching the Prairie sunsets. It's my home.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I considered my career accomplishments, but in truth, my family is my greatest achievement, if I can say that. I have seven beautiful children with my husband of nineteen years. I am proud of every one of them. They have been my support and my greatest strength throughout my career. Their willingness to accept change, take on the next adventure and see what the unknown will bring never ceases to amaze me.

What is your favourite book?

This was a tough one since I LOVE books. The top of the list, though, has to be The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Thomas, Evan Alexander Beirne

Evan Alexander Beirne Thomas

Where were you born?
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Portland, Oregon, USA

Education

  • Bachelor's, broadcast journalism – University of Colorado Boulder
  • Bachelor's, aerospace engineering sciences – University of Colorado Boulder
  • Master's, public health – Oregon Health and Science University
  • Master's, aerospace engineering sciences – University of Colorado Boulder
  • Ph.D., aerospace engineering sciences – University of Colorado Boulder

What is your current job?

Associate professor, Portland State University - I am an associate professor in mechanical engineering and public health at Portland State University. My team develops and deploys cellular and satellite reporting sensors in 15 countries to help inform and improve global health programs.

I also run a nationwide health program in Rwanda, operating in 7,500 villages with 1.3 million beneficiaries. We are providing clean cookstoves and water filters and ongoing behaviour change messaging. We recently completed a large-scale health impact randomized controlled trial.

I previously was an aerospace engineer at NASA's Johnson Space Center developing air revitalization and water recovery systems for spacecraft.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

Clean water, safe sanitation and reliable energy are technical challenges equally relevant in spacecraft and here on Earth, where billions of people's basic needs are still not met. I want to be an astronaut because the International Space Station is both a research and development platform and a global pulpit for tangible, impactful collaborations that can simultaneously further space exploration while addressing chronic challenges on Earth.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

Growing up I always wanted to be an inventor, like Edison or Tesla. In high school I learned that studying engineering could help me get there. I later went to work for NASA because I wanted to contribute to space exploration. More recently, I have combined my engineering skills with public health training in order to help provide clean water, sanitation and energy in developing countries, and to monitor the success of these efforts with high-tech sensors connected to satellite and cellular networks – helping bring us all closer together.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

My most influential teachers have always accepted and encouraged my unwillingness to colour inside the lines. They have helped guide me, and keep me out of trouble, without telling me what I had to do to be like everyone else.

What do you like best about your job?

I get to work in multidisciplinary teams of experts from around the world, all committed to improving life here on Earth. I have travelled to almost 50 countries working in remote villages and towns in partnership with dedicated and thoughtful friends. The more I travel, the more I realize how similar we all are, and how we can work together.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

My friend Colonel Ron Garan was a NASA astronaut and US Air Force F-16 fighter pilot who discovered an "orbital perspective" that can eliminate divisions and unhealthy competition. He has dedicated his third career to sharing this perspective globally.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

Interstellar in polite company. But actually Star Trek.

What is your motto?

Don't waste time!

Were you afraid of the dark when you were young?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

Do what you can to make a difference. Not what looks good on a résumé.

What is your most treasured possession?

My grandfather earned his Ph.D. in entomology at age 21. It was technically his only degree because he could not afford to pay the university fees for his other diplomas. When he graduated, he used his inheritance from his own grandfather to buy his first microscope in 1938. He gave it to me when I was around 10.

What is your favourite place on Earth?

I recently built a one-room cabin with a view of Mt. Hood in Oregon. Surrounded by snow and wildlife, it's a great place to get real work done.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

When I was an undergraduate, I helped found Engineers Without Borders – USA and started working in Rwanda with a budget of $5,000 raised from car washes and Rotary Clubs. Later, when working as an aerospace engineer at the NASA Johnson Space Center, I spent my lunch hours, evenings and weekends building our water and energy technologies destined for developing countries. Now, I run a $35 million nationwide program that has presently reached over 1.3 million people in Rwanda.

What is your favourite book?

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain.

Vidal, Andréane

Andréane Vidal

Where were you born?
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Belleville, Ontario, Canada

Education

  • Bachelor's, chemical engineering – Royal Military College of Canada

What is your current job?

Officer responsible for research and development of future capabilities, Canadian Armed Forces - My tasks are to identify equipment and procedure deficiencies so that my unit can fulfill its mandate of providing the Government of Canada with a flexible, rapid and specialized response capability in the event of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

I've always been drawn to the sky, and the idea of going as high as possible has always fascinated me. I studied science and technology to fulfill my first passion and then pursued a career as an air navigator in the Canadian Armed Forces. Even though my job is extremely rewarding, both intellectually and physically, I feel the need to push my personal limits even further. I would like to use the two types of knowledge and skills I acquired during my professional career for the benefit of humanity, and becoming an astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency is an ideal opportunity to do just that.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

To be honest, I went into my field of studies somewhat by chance. I was interested in a number of fields. In the end, I chose chemical engineering because I was fascinated by the fact that absolutely everything in the known universe boils down to interactions between just 118 chemical elements. At least, that's what we think—who knows what exploration of the universe will allow us to discover!

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

I've been lucky enough to have many inspiring teachers and instructors, from elementary school to university, as well as in various professional training I've taken. They all had one thing in common: passion! Regardless of who it was—Mr. Malbœuf in math, Mr. Thibeault and Ms. Dumouchel in music, Dr. Tremblay in literature, Dr. Lord and Dr. Laplante in chemistry, or Sgt Savard in military training—they passed on their love of learning and helped me understand that knowledge in any field will come in handy at some point or another.

What do you like best about your job?

My current job consists in applying technological innovations to an operational context. I'm fortunate to work every day with highly qualified scientists on developing technologies of the future and establishing their operational concepts with the primary users, who are leaders in the fight against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents. I have my head in the laboratories and my feet in the field—it's the best of both worlds!

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

All the people who work behind the scenes but make a real difference in the lives of those less fortunate. For example, I admire Canadians who work with the homeless or volunteer at non-profit organizations that bring ongoing humanitarian aid to conflict-ridden countries that are often overlooked in the West.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve.

What is your motto?

Science doesn't lie!

At what age did you decide to become an astronaut?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

A few years ago, I was interviewed twice in the same week for two completely different jobs. One was very conventional, while the other would really challenge me. At the end of the interview for the conventional job, the potential employer told me that he'd have no qualms about hiring me but that he wouldn't give me the job because he saw the way my eyes lit up when I talked about the second interview. In a very subtle and insightful way, he was telling me to go for it. This wise advice gave me confidence in myself, and I got the job that I truly wanted.

What is your most treasured possession?

My family and friends, who are always there for me.

What is your favourite place on Earth?

There are so many little paradises on Earth! I've been lucky enough to travel a lot, and every country has its own unexpected treasures for those who open their eyes to see them. If I had to pick a favourite place, it would be Ambue Ari Park, deep in the Bolivian jungle; or Sakya, a small village in the heart of the Tibetan Himalayas.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

The achievement I'm most proud of is being a pioneer, as a woman, in the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command. Women are still underrepresented in the Canadian Armed Forces, and even more so among the aircrew. When I decided to pursue a career in the Special Operations Forces, I had to work hard to carve out a place for myself. Today, my female colleagues and I are small in number, but we are an integral part of the team.

What is your favourite book?

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

Whitty, Michelle

Michelle Whitty

Where were you born?
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Education

  • Bachelor's, civil engineering – Royal Military College of Canada
  • Master's, civil engineering / biomedical engineering – Royal Military College of Canada
  • Doctorate, medicine – University of Ottawa
  • Family medicine residency (ongoing) – University of Calgary

What is your current job?

Captain in the Canadian Armed Forces and qualified combat engineering officer - Following my deployment to Afghanistan, I was accepted into the Medical Officer Training Program. I recently completed my degree in medicine and am currently completing my residency in family medicine at the University of Calgary. I am presently working as a medical doctor in training in various hospital and clinical settings in Calgary.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

I was sitting around a campfire in the backcountry of Algonquin Park with friends when someone mentioned that the CSA was taking applications for two astronaut positions. I almost couldn't contain my excitement. I had been waiting for this moment for years, ever since my parents sent me to astronaut camp in 1994 at the Euro Space Centre in Belgium. The thought of a lifetime of learning, travelling and adventure makes me excited. I am thrilled at the opportunity to be able to merge the fields of medicine, engineering and space exploration and push the limits of human knowledge.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

I've always loved math and science and have always felt it was important to stay physically fit. With my father being a military engineer, it was a logical step for me to join the Canadian Armed Forces and study engineering at the Royal Military College of Canada. Following graduation, I was offered the opportunity to complete a master's degree in applied science. For this I merged my engineering knowledge with my long-time fascination with the human body. This work, combined with an interest in working with people, ultimately led me to change careers and to study medicine.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

My Grade 3 teacher at Peacock Elementary in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL, Mademoiselle Hobbs, taught us about the negative effects of smoking and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. We signed a pocket-sized card promising that we would be a "smoke-free graduate." As a result of that classroom activity, I never took up smoking. I credit Mlle Hobbs with instilling in me, from a young age, the importance of good health and physical fitness. I also realized the strength of my conviction upon graduating from high school.

What do you like best about your job?

I love the military for its comradery, teamwork and frequent adventure. My favourite part of medicine is the constant challenge and diversity of medical issues that I encounter while treating patients. Each patient requires you to look beyond textbook knowledge and consider him or her as an individual. The fact that I can do medicine within the Canadian Armed Forces allows me to combine the best of both worlds.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

Brigadier-General Jennie Carignan is the highest-ranking Combat Arms woman within the Canadian Armed Forces and is the world's first female Combat Arms General. I had the pleasure of working under her command as a young combat engineer at CFB Valcartier, Quebec. She is charismatic, approachable, as well as an exceptional leader. She taught me that you can excel as a woman in a challenging profession while maintaining a positive work/family balance.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

Star Wars.

What is your motto?

Challenge yourself and be happy.

What would you do if you met aliens?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

It is my husband who gave me the most important career advice, inspiring me to completely change career paths. He taught me that it’s always important to follow your dreams, even though the chance of succeeding is sometimes slim. It is important not to let the fear of failure hold you back since inevitably you will learn from the process. There is never a time in your career when it’s too late to reset your goals and aim for higher. And therefore, as I have done before, I am aiming higher and prepared to change careers.

What is your most treasured possession?

My three children: Claire (4), Rachel (2) and Alec (2 months).

What is your favourite place on Earth?

Anywhere surrounded by friends and family.

Anywhere a new adventure takes me.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My deployment to Afghanistan in 2009 as a combat engineer is my greatest achievement. I was the operations and plans officer for the engineer squadron attached to 2 Battalion Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group. I was overseeing the movement of personnel and equipment and the planning of operations for over 150 engineer soldiers on the ground. I am proud of the teamwork environment I built, the attitude of determination I maintained, and the significant work I accomplished almost always under intense pressure during my six-month tour. My leadership was put to the test and as a team, we succeeded.

What is your favourite book?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Zroback, Jesse

Jesse Zroback

Where were you born?
Richmond, Virginia, USA

Where do you currently live?
Marathon, Ontario, Canada

Education

  • Bachelor's, chemical engineering – University of Waterloo
  • Doctorate, medicine – Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Lakehead and Laurentian universities
  • Family medicine residency – Queen's University

What is your current job?

Family physician in the remote community of Marathon - As one part of a broader team, I work to provide health care for people in the emergency room, hospital, and clinic. Through involvement in local health care governance and policy development, I use my experience and creative thinking to improve our community's health services.

Assistant professor at the NOSM - I have the pleasure of teaching (and learning from) medical students and residents who come to Marathon.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

As a kid, I looked at the night sky in admiration of the moon and of humankind's accomplishment for having explored its surface. Discovery through exploration and adventure is a passion of mine. It would be extremely rewarding to push myself to my highest potential through the skills development and variety of rigorous challenges of astronaut training. The possibility of being an astronaut also brings together my enthusiasm for science, health, and fitness. It would be an honour to share the adventure with our country's youth to help create a better future for Canada and our planet Earth.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

As a teenager, watching space shuttles lift off and seeing the rings of Saturn through a telescope fuelled my desire to learn about our world and universe. I chose chemical engineering to expand my understanding of mathematics and the fundamentals of science hoping to make a contribution to our society. As I studied, I discovered that becoming a doctor would allow me to apply science and problem solving to benefit the health of our people. Rural family medicine challenges me to be creative in settings where resources are limited and the team is important. I love my work as a family doctor!

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

I am grateful for the teachers I have had in my life. One who comes to mind is my Grade 10 math teacher in Kenora. His passion and enthusiasm shaped the way I approach learning. That was the year that math started to "click" for me. He taught me that while we can sometimes just memorize something, it is more important and exciting to understand how something fundamentally works. If you understand then you use your creativity to solve almost any problem. This has stuck with me throughout university and helps me every day as a family doctor.

What do you like best about your job?

It's the variety that I like best about my job. Every person has their own unique story. I have to use both social and "hands-on" examination skills whether I am in the ER or clinic. Working in the resource-limited setting of a rural and remote community, I have to be practical in testing and treatment decisions. I also teach and learn from medical students and residents who will soon become independent doctors providing care for Canadians. I learn from my patients as well. I am really grateful that every day brings something to learn and challenge me.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

I get to meet heroes on a daily basis: my patients. For people who face a diagnosis of cancer, enduring the path of diagnosis and treatment requires incredible resilience. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can have extreme side effects. Some people may never be cured and yet learn how to heal and live their lives with love and happiness, knowing that cancer may end their lives early. Their courage is colossal. A friend of mine in Marathon, David Giuliano, has faced his cancer more than once; I am grateful that he has publicly shared his insight into this profound illness experience.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

The Martian. Problem solving with limited resources on Mars is fun to think about. I also like to imagine the time when Earth might send astronauts to other planets.

What is your motto?

"Where there's a will, there's a way!" I think about this when I'm struggling with a problem or trying to fix something. Take a deep breath to let frustration move aside and think outside the box.

If selected, what personal items will you bring with you to space?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

Follow a career path you are passionate about. If you have multiple interests, strongly consider the option that has the greatest benefit to our society. This is more likely to bring happiness and a sense of accomplishment with your work. Even though it's been my life's aspiration to become an astronaut, I am also passionate about medicine and helping others heal and understand their health. I love problem solving and technology and try to bring an engineering approach to my daily activities.

What is your most treasured possession?

A blue piece of naturally polished agate that fits in the palm of my hand. I found it on the shores of a beach outside Christchurch, New Zealand. It reminds me of adventure and the beauty of our planet Earth.

What is your favourite place on Earth?

This is a tough one. The Canadian Shield and the north shore of Lake Superior rank high. However, the cenotes (natural sinkholes of limestone bedrock exposing a cave of swimmable groundwater), Mayan ruins, beaches, tacos and guacamole, and friendly people of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico hold a special place in my heart.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I consider the connections I have made with people throughout the different walks of my life my greatest achievement. Their friendship has brought me happiness and success. With their support and respect, I have earned my engineering degree, become a doctor, and surfed Lake Superior in the winter (yes, it's possible!). I may also achieve my life's dream of becoming one of our nation's astronauts.

What is your favourite book?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. It's about adventure, teamwork, and pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone to grow as a person. I first read it as a young teenager and recommend it if you haven't already read it.

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