Meet ten CAF personnel in the running to be Canada’s next astronaut

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is currently gearing up to select its next generation of space explorers. Out of the top 32 finalists, eight are currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Last year, the CSA announced that it is looking for individuals to fill in two now vacant seats. The CSA received nearly 4,000 applications last year. After a series of aptitude tests, that list was then narrowed down to 72 candidates, with 32 still in the running.

Here is a closer look at the CAF members vying for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity:

Francis Frenzel Pilot in Training with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
While being posted to CFB Trenton, Frenzel is currently training to be an RCAF pilot. Becoming an astronaut is all about taking exploration to another level, for Frenzel.

“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?” writes Frenzel.

Vanessa Fulford Flight Test Engineer
Capt. Fulford currently is working as a Flight Test Engineer for the RCAF, mostly working on CF-18 Hornets. She is also a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC). A number of reasons motivated her to apply for the astronaut vacancies.

“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,” writes Fulford.

Michael Anthony Jordan DND Test Pilot
Currently working out of Jupiter, Florida, this RMCC graduate is a Lead DND Test Pilot. He is working as a member of the CH148 Combined Test Force. Becoming an astronaut would be a lifelong dream come true for Jordan.

“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,” writes Jordan.

Jason Leuschen Student Pilot
Leuschen is currently a student-pilot with the RCAF, with the aim of becoming a helicopter pilot to fly with search and rescue.
“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,” writes Leuschen.

Robert Riddell – Medical Officer
Currently living in Ottawa, Riddell is an RMCC graduate who serves as a physician to CAF personnel, at home and while they’re deployed on missions. Riddell views becoming an astronaut as his next big challenge.

“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,” writes Riddell.

Nathalie Sieno Medical Officer
Sieno serves as a Medical officer, team lead, 1 Field Ambulance Detachment out of Yellowknife. She also acts as aviation medical officer for 440 Squadron.

“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,” writes Sieno.

Michelle Whitty Combat Engineer Officer
Serving as a captain the CAF, Whitty is another RMCC graduate and is currently completing her residency in family medicine. She has been deployed to Afghanistan.

“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,” writes Whitty.

Joshua Kutryk – Commanding Officer Flighter Operational Test and Evaluation Flight
Based in Cold Lake, AB, Kutryk is an experimental test pilot and a fighter pilot. This RMCC graduate leads the unit responsible for the operational flight testing of fighter aircraft in Canada.

“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,” writes Kutryk.

Adam Sirek – Pilot Serving in the reserves, Captain Sirek is a family physician during the week, and a captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force supporting the Royal Canadian Air Cadets where he serves as a pilot, and he is the deputy of operations officer of a cadet flying site.

“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, writes Sirek.

Andréane Vidal – Officer responsible for research and development of future capabilities, Canadian Armed Forces. RMC graduate Vidal is currently tasked to identify equipment and procedure deficiencies, so her unit can fulfill its mandate of providing the Canadian government with flexible, rapid and specialized response capability in the event of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents.

Vidal writes, “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.”


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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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