The sky’s the limit for the determined

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Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Recruitment Campaign 2016, Candidate Web Profile Captain Vanessa Fulford
Captain Vanessa Fulford works as a Flight Test Engineer (FTE) at Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE). Photo: MS Kathryn Poudrier, Image Data Systems, AETE

Joy Smith

When Vanessa Fulford was growing up in Fort McMurray, AB she wanted to be an astronaut. That is quite a lofty goal for a young person, especially for someone who, at that time, had very little understanding of what was involved in becoming an astronaut.

Today, Vanessa Fulford is an Aerospace Engineer at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE), specializing as a Flight Test Engineer. She is also a Captain in the Royal Canadian Airforce (RCAF) and ranked in the top eight of 3,772 candidates who applied to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to be part of their space program.

Determination to achieve her ultimate goal is just one of the reasons Fulford was a perfect mentor for 4 Wing’s International Women’s Day (IWD) event. The focus of the event was to raise awareness about women’s contributions to the RCAF and provide an opportunity for young women to see a future for themselves in traditionally male dominated fields by job shadowing the women and men of 4 Wing. “It’s very hard to tell when you are at that age [high school] what you want to be so any sort of tangible experience or a little bit more insight into what that actually might be, is very important,” said Fulford.

Fulford explained that another reason she was attracted to a military lifestyle came from her positive experiences in school participating in sports and being part of social groups and clubs. She found the same sort of comradery and team spirit in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), which made her feel right at home.

When asked why she volunteered to be one of the mentors for this event, Fulford explained that she wanted to provide an opportunity for girls to see that it takes all kinds of attributes and skill sets to make a great team and not to assume that they [young women] don’t fit the mould. “There are so many different trades and specializations of those trades [in the CAF], it’s really important that we attract lots of different personalities in order to be a better team,” said Fulford.

“I want to be a role model for future generations,” explained Fulford. “I take pride in motivating and exciting people about the possibilities of the future and the amazing things that they can experience.”