LONGUEUIL, Que.— Canada’s two new astronauts received a rousing ovation from staff at the Canadian Space Agency on July 4 as they took questions from children in the audience and toured the facilities.
“I’ve started new jobs before but I’ve never ever in my life received this type of a welcome on Day 1,” Joshua Kutryk of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., told the gathered crowd.
Kutryk and Calgary’s Jennifer Sidey, who will both head to Houston for training next month, were named by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on July 1 as the country marked its 150th birthday.
Sidey is a lecturer with the University of Cambridge who has worked as a mechanical engineer, while Kutryk is an air force pilot with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in defence studies.
The two have no shortage of tasks to accomplish as the new Canadian astronauts navigate their space careers, but one remains high on their to-do lists: inspiring the next generation.
“Kids look up to us,” said Kutryk, 35. “It’s a critical part of the job: everyone’s life starts somewhere.”
He said that seeing a Canadarm exhibit in Edmonton when he was just six years old triggered his dream to become an astronaut.
“It’s certainly my hope that kids will be able to look at Josh and I and think they could be in our shoes in a couple of years’ time,” Sidey said. “That’s really important to me.”
Sidey has spent much of her life pushing for girls and women to get involved in the engineering field and she will use her platform to continue that.
“I’ve done a lot of work to try to make sure that engineering is for everyone,” she said.
“Engineering is just using science to make people’s lives better. That’s the only requirement. Besides that, it’s completely up to whoever wants to study it to take it where they want.”
Sidey, who turns 29 in August, says her dreams of becoming an astronaut date back to 1992 when Roberta Bondar went into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
She was about four when her mother helped her make a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and she fashioned her own space shuttle out of a toilet paper roll with the word “Jenni” written on it.
“I thought this was a wonderful thing and I had this person (Bondar) I could identify with,” she said.
After undergoing a gruelling recruitment process, the two new astronauts celebrated as they scoped out the space agency. Tougher days lie ahead as they embark on a two-year training program in Houston along with a dozen new American recruits under the supervision of fellow Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen.
Hansen said it’s an exciting time for the agency and that its two newest members will help shape its future.
“These two extraordinary Canadians had amazing things going on in their lives, they were doing tremendous work,” he said. “We stole them away.”
From The Canadian Press