RCAF career is the way to the stars for LCol Joshua Kutryk

Joshua-Kutryk-and-Jennifer-Sidey

LCol Joshua Kutryk, left, and Jennifer Sidey are Canada’s newest astronauts.
Photo: Canadian Space Agency

Jeff Gaye

LCol Joshua Kutryk, one of Canada’s two newest astronauts, says the culture of Canada’s fighter community contributed to his selection.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the selection of LCol Kutryk and Jennifer Sidey to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)’s astronaut program on Canada Day.
LCol Kutryk had just been appointed 4 Wing Operations Officer a few days before the announcement. Prior to that, he had been Officer Commanding 410 Squadron’s Fighter Operational Test and Evaluation Flight.

LCol Kutryk says there is a culture that’s “specific to the fighter force, and maybe to the air force writ large,” that fits well with the astronaut program.

“You definitely find a certain type of person. You find people who are comfortable operating complex equipment like the CF-18, but you also find academic interests – people with an engineering or science background,” he said.

“You often find people who are good at working in these operational environments, be they combat or flight tests or whatever your example is. These are high-risk, high-consequence environments where mistakes can be costly or catastrophic.

“I think there are parallels that can be drawn from that over to the intricacies of space flight missions.”

For prospective astronauts, a posting to Cold Lake may be the way to the stars. Two other local candidates, Capt Vanessa Fulford of AETE and Maj Ross Semeniuk, then with 22 CF Health Services, had advanced far into the selection process.

Astronauts Col (Ret) Chris Hadfield and USAF Lt. Gen. (Ret) Susan Helms had both spent time at AETE, and LCol Jeremy Hansen has served with various units at 4 Wing.

LCol Kutryk and his family will move to Houston in August. He and Sidey will occupy designated CSA places on NASA’s two-year astronaut qualification course.

“There’s a lot to learn,” he said. “It’s everything from space station operations, the systems on the space station, through things like orbital mechanics and other space systems. The Russian language is a big part of the curriculum.”

The core of Canadian astronauts’ work is currently with the International Space Station, but that program is slated to end in 2024. Future projects may involve more exploratory missions, LCol Kutryk said – “new vehicles, new destinations, and leaving low-Earth orbit.” Missions to the moon or to Mars are within the realm of possibility.

“It’s a very exciting time for us,” he said.