Rous­ing ova­tion for our new Can-as­tro­nauts

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - SIDHARTHA BANERJEE

LONGUEUIL, QUE. — Joshua Kutryk and Jen­nifer Sidey 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.

Kutryk, 35, of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., re­counted Tues­day that see­ing a Canadarm ex­hibit in Ed­mon­ton when he was just six years old trig­gered his dream to be­come an as­tro­naut.

“Kids look up to us,” Kutryk said as he and Sidey vis­ited the Cana­dian Space Agency south of Mon­treal.

“It’s a crit­i­cal part of the job: ev­ery­one’s life starts some­where.”

Kutryk is an air force pilot with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in me­chan­i­cal engi­neer­ing and a master’s de­gree in de­fence stud­ies.

Sidey, a Cal­gary na­tive who has worked as a me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer, was a lec­turer with the Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge.

“It’s wild, 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.

“And I was ready, I thought this was a won­der­ful thing and I had this per­son (Bon­dar) I could iden­tify with,” she said.

Both said they have fielded calls or met with re­tired as­tro­nauts Bon­dar, Julie Payette and Dave Wil­liams since be­ing named Satur­day.

Af­ter un­der­go­ing a gru­elling re­cruit­ment process, the two new as­tro­nauts cel­e­brated Tues­day as they scoped out the space agency where they were met with a rous­ing ova­tion and took ques­tions from sev­eral chil­dren.

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.

“It’s adapt­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment and re­ally set­tling in so much so that we can learn,” Sidey said. “Be­cause we need to learn a lot and we need to learn it pretty quickly, so that’s a big chal­lenge.”

In­no­va­tion Min­is­ter Navdeep Bains called the new as­tro­nauts “just re­ally good peo­ple” and role mod­els for kids, in­clud­ing his own daugh­ters, aged six and nine.

“I want them to see Jenni, I want them to look up to Jenni,” Bains said. “At such a young age, she’s ac­com­plished so much, but she’s just a good per­son, she cares deeply about Canada, she’s ex­cited about the fu­ture.”

Hansen said it’s an ex­cit­ing time for the agency and 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,” Hansen said.

“We stole them away.”

GRA­HAM HUGHES, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Canada’s new­est as­tro­nauts Jen­nifer Sidey and Joshua Kutryk speak with as­tro­naut Jeremy Hansen, right, dur­ing a visit to the Cana­dian Space Agency.

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