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Perhaps it was the area I grew up in, or perhaps it was the media I was influenced by, but I grew up in an era where spaceflight, shamefully, wasn’t that interesting. Don’t get me wrong; I was always a huge nerd and a massive Trekkie, but in the UK it all seemed so intangible to us. I grew up in an era where we made huge technological advances in all areas of science and technology. We built the International Space Station; Earths only off-world colony and we sent probes to most of the planets to learn more about our universe and how we came to be. But, unlike the kids who grew up generations before me and were inspired by the Apollo lunar landings, my friends and I were more interested in the latest mobile phone or games console on offer. We lacked inspiration.
So when the careers officer asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn’t even think about announcing my intention to be an astronaut. In any case, my schools highest achievers were more suited to driving vans and moving boxes. I settled for lawyer or doctor and ended up joining the military.But years later, as the race to Mars heats up and I begin to wonder what could have been, I am interested to know what it would take. What does it take to become a real life astronaut? What traits and skills do you need to don a spacesuit and head up to the ISS, or wherever else the worlds space agencies are planning to send humans in the near future?
I decided to speak to the Canadian Space Agency, who were recently looking for a new crop of enthusiastic astronauts for future missions, and ask a few questions about what it takes to become an astronaut. Maya Eyssen, from CSA Media relations was more than happy to answer my questions.
Hi Maya! So what is the CSA looking for in potential astronauts?
Firstly, to be eligible for the selection process, applicants must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada. Applicants must be proficient in French or English. Bilingualism is a major asset.
I can imagine work experience is a bit tough to get, how about education?
In terms of education and professional experience, applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university in engineering or science (e.g., physics, chemistry, biology, nursing, geology, mathematics, computer science) AND/OR Hold a doctorate in medicine or dentistry. In addition, applicants must have at least three years of relevant professional experience or be licensed to practice medicine in Canada.
And physically fit I guess?
To even be considered, applicants must meet very stringent medical requirements, be in excellent health, and be able to travel frequently on short notice and for extended periods of time without family.
What tests might they face?
Candidates will have to undergo medical tests to determine that they are in excellent health because astronauts must be fit and strong to undertake training. They will also have to undergo skills and aptitudes tests to demonstrate their ability to work and think like astronauts under harsh conditions and in stressful situations.
What lies ahead for future astronauts, should they get selected?
Selected astronauts candidates will begin their Astronaut Candidate Training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in August 2017. At the end of this training, they will be given the title of “astronaut”. They will continue to train and work at NASA while waiting to be assigned to a mission.
How does the Canadian Space Agency see its future on the international stage?
The CSA and its partners are exploring options beyond the ISS. This new generation of astronauts will be part of Canada’s next chapter of space exploration. That may include future deep-space exploration missions. Through our participation in the ISS, Canada has developed an internationally renowned expertise in robotics and optics; has provided access to this unique laboratory to Canadian scientists for their science experiments and has flown over 8 astronauts to space over 16 missions.
From my chat with Maya, and after looking through the Canadian Space Agencies past and present activities, it’s clear that Canada has big ambitions to be a major player on the international space scene. The Canadian government recently increased spending over the next few years on the agencies projects and we can expect big things to come.
Will you be applying for astronaut training anytime soon?
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Picture credits: Canadian Space Agency