On Canada Day 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced the country to its two newest astronauts, Jennifer Sidey and Joshua Kutryk. Sidey and Kutryk join the Canadian Space Agency as the 13th and 14th members of this exclusive group.
The closest to superheroes that Canada has, the pair’s journey has just begun. The next step involves two years of training at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It includes space propulsion, orbital mechanics, International Space Station (ISS) systems, space walking, and even Russian. Once completed, they could go to the ISS, the world’s only orbiting research laboratory.
With the training left to complete, it is easy to overlook how rigorous a path they took to get here. From a pool of 3772 potential candidates, only 17 reached the final round for consideration.
The prerequisites encompass many factors. Among the list of physical requirements include:
Having 20/20 vision
Being between 149.5 cm to 190.5 cm tall
Being Between 50 kg and 95 kg in weight
Being able to swim 250 meters and tread water for 10 minutes.
Physical trials aside, there are still a few boxes left to check off. There is a separate list of knowledge and education that each candidate should possess. Some of them are:
Proficiency in English and/or French.
Bachelor’s degree in engineering or science and/or doctorate in medicine or dentistry.
Three years of relevant professional experience.
We can agree that the process poses more of a challenge than your standard job interview. Yet, this is the reason why since 1983 there have only been 14 Canadian astronauts. With the exclusivity of this club, it is understandable how some of these astronauts have become Canadian household names.
It’s debatable what Chris Hadfield’s most prominent accomplishment is in the opinion of Canadians. Whether it’s being the first Canadian to space walk or singing a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity from the ISS. Whichever it is in your opinion, the one undeniable fact is that he is a Canadian icon. His book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, covers his other accomplishments. Hadfield is the first Canadian to both visit Russia’s Mir space station in 1995 as well as command the ISS. His qualifications for the spot? Being able to fly fighter jets in hostile territory, one of the world’s top test pilots and having a Master’s degree in engineering.
Sure, Hadfield sets the bar pretty high for Canadian astronauts. But Canada has always been a leading partner in many international space projects. This is, after all, the country that developed the Canadarm, a mechanical limb used at the ISS.
Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, stresses the importance of Canadians in space: “The technologies that are designed for space today can one day be used to improve the lives of all Canadians. These innovations also have the potential to create new jobs and opportunities for Canadians.”
Regardless of the challenges to come for Jennifer Sidey and Joshua Kutryk, one thing is clear. The pair will be in the frontline of pivotal scientific breakthroughs for years to come.
Alex Correa | The Edge Blog