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 is only just beginning. Earlier in 2020, along with 11 other candidates in NASA’s Artemis program, both completed the prerequisite two years of basic training at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, which included space propulsion, orbital mechanics, space walking, and even Russian. By 2024, they could go to the moon, with the end goal of a mission to Mars.
With their training class complete, supervised by none other than fellow Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen, 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 of which we can all agree pose more of a challenge than your standard job interview. This is the reason why that 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.
Regardless of the challenges to come for Sidey and Kutryk, one thing is clear. The pair will be in the frontline of pivotal scientific breakthroughs for years to come.
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.
These days Hadfield’s impact can be both heard and felt, from giving his best advice on COVID-19 self-isolation practices, to his presence online and work with some of Canada’s largest companies spreading positivity and keeping people motivated, productive, healthy and happy during these challenging times.
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.”
Canada Day 2020
By necessity, Canada Day will be celebrated in a new way this year. The virtual Canada Day celebration kit offers interactive activities for the whole family, and even includes Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques’ space chili recipe which can be enjoyed while watching the celebrations online.
Additionally running until August 23rd, the Canadian Space Agency in collaboration with the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum present the exhibition Health in Space: Daring to Explore which focuses on the unique health challenges of living and working in space, giving us a unique perspective on health concerns amidst the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The exhibition follows NASA’s recent Space Apps COVID-19 Challenge where participants were invited to use satellite data, including Canadian data, to develop solutions related to the pandemic.
Carlie Doan & Alex Correa | Contributing Writers