Retired Canadian astronauts weigh in on gruelling recruitment process

Retired Canadian astronauts weigh in on gruelling recruitment process

Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk holds plants while on board the International Space Station in this handout photo. Retired Canadian spaceman Bob Thirsk asks himself a couple of simple questions when sizing up people who tell him they want to become an astronaut. The first is whether he could see himself getting along with the person for six months in orbit and the other is whether he could trust them with his life. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Canadian Space Agency

MONTREAL — Retired Canadian astronauts say the gruelling selection process for choosing the country’s new space explorers is one that is continuously evolving.

Recruitment is currently underway for the fourth time as Canada looks to double its astronaut corps this summer with the addition of two new members.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains is expected to announce the remaining prospective candidates in Toronto on Monday.

Former astronaut Bob Thirsk says he believes strong interpersonal skills are an asset, in addition to the hefty educational and professional requirements.

His former colleague Dave Williams says the process has continually evolved and puts prospective astronauts in uncomfortable situations similar to those they can encounter in space.

The field was whittled down from an initial 3,772 applications last year, with a short list of 32 announced in March.

A dozen Canadians have been selected as astronauts since 1983 in three separate selection processes. The fourth is currently underway and will double the current roster of two active professional space explorers.

Here are some numbers and details:

1983 group — Roberta Bondar, Marc Garneau, Steve MacLean, Ken Money, Robert Thirsk and Bjarni Tryggvason.

1992 group — Dave Williams, Julie Payette, Chris Hadfield and Michael McKay

2009 group — Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques

Summer 2017 — Two new Canadian astronauts to be announced.

August 2017 — Relocation of new astronauts to Houston to begin basic training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

November 2018 — Saint-Jacques heads into space, marking the 17th space flight for a Canadian astronaut.


Tale of the tape:

Aside from being in excellent health, prospective astronauts must meet the following requirements:

— Measure between 149.5 cm and 190.5 cm (4-10 and 6-3), and weigh between 50 and 95 kilograms (110 and 209 pounds).

— Have 20/20 vision, or better, in each eye, with or without correction.

— Cannot be colour blind.

— Have normal hearing

— Have blood pressure that can’t be higher than 140/90, measured in a sitting position.

A bright mind:

Education requirements include either a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university in:

engineering or science (e.g., physics, chemistry, biology, geology, mathematics, computer science);

or a doctorate in:

medicine or dentistry.

Practical experience:

— Have at least three years of relevant professional experience;

— (a master’s degree is equivalent to one year of professional experience; a doctorate (PhD) is equivalent to three years of professional experience)


— Be licensed to practise medicine in Canada.

Space explorer attributes:

In addition to recruiters scrutinizing other aspects of prospective candidates’ expertise, education, knowledge, language skills and certifications, they also look for a wide array of skills:

– Judgment

– Integrity

– Reasoning

– Teamwork

– Ability to communicate using plain language

– Public speaking

– Motivation

– Resourcefulness


– Either of Canada’s official languages (but proficiency in both French and English is considered an asset).

SOURCE: Canadian Space Agency website

Categories: News

About Author

Write a Comment

Only registered users can comment.