He grew up on a cattle farm in Alberta. Now Joshua Kutryk is headed to space

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This week, Canada announced mission objectives for two of its four active astronauts. Joshua Kutryk will be traveling to the International Space Station in 2025 for a six-month stay. And Jenni Sidey-Gibbons has been named to the backup crew of Artemis 2, which will launch as early as next year for a trip around the moon. Jeremy Hansen is already part of that mission, meaning if he can’t make the trip, another Canadian will fly in his place.

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None of the three has flown in space before. Canada’s other active astronaut, 53-year-old David Saint Jacques, logged 204 days in space aboard the International Space Station in 2018 and 2019.

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Here’s what to know about the others.

Joshua Kutryk
Joshua Kutryk will fly to the International Space Station in 2025, the fourth time a Canadian has participated in a long-duration mission there. Photo by Canadian Space Agency

Joshua Kutryk

Kutryk, 41, was born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., and raised on a cattle farm in the eastern part of the province. He joined the Canadian Space Agency in 2017 along with Sidey-Gibbons as part of the CSA’s fourth astronaut recruitment campaign. They were the only two chosen out of 3,772 applicants.

Prior to joining the astronaut corps, Kutryk had served as a CF-18 fighter pilot with 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron in Bagotville, Que., from 2007 to 2011. He flew missions in support of Canada’s NATOUN and NORAD commitments, and was deployed to conflicts in Libya and Afghanistan.

In 2012, he started work as an experimental test pilot at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment in Cold Lake, Alta. Three years later he became an operational test pilot at the same location, leading the unit responsible for the operational flight-testing of fighter aircraft in Canada. He also worked as an instructor pilot on the CF-18.

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Kutryk has master’s degrees in space studies, flight test engineering and defence studies. In an interview with the National Post last year, he shied away from the question of what it would be like to be on a flight to the moon.

“Of course it’s something that all of us think about,” he said. “But myself personally, it’s way too early to know where this is all going to go. But from a national perspective, it’s something that I’m very proud of, which is Canada’s involvement in the Artemis missions and in the return to the moon.”

Astronaut Jenni Sidey-Gibbons, seen here at CSA headquarters in Quebec.
Jenni Sidey-Gibbons, seen here at CSA headquarters in Quebec, has been named as a backup crew member on Artemis 2. Photo by Canadian Space Agency

Jenni Sidey-Gibbons

At 34, Sidey-Gibbons is Canada’s youngest astronaut and also the only active female astronaut. Born in Calgary, she has an honours bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from McGill University, and a PhD in engineering from Britain’s Cambridge University. She joined the CSA in 2017 alongside Kutryk, and they both completed Astronaut Candidate Training in 2020.

In 2016 she worked as an assistant professor in internal combustion engines at the Department of Engineering at Cambridge, researching dynamic combustion processes and pollutant reduction in combustion systems. She taught students in the Energy, Fluid Mechanics and Turbomachinery Division on topics ranging from conventional and alternative energy production to thermodynamics and flame physics.

In 2020, Sidey-Gibbons was the lead CapCom for the International Space Station during Expedition 63. She later acted as the ground communicator for a series of spacewalks to upgrade the station’s solar arrays, and mentored NASA’s 2021 astronaut class through their spacewalk training.

Jeremy Hansen during a press conference with International Space Station crew.
Jeremy Hansen during a press conference with the International Space Station crew. Photo by Canadian Space Agency

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Jeremy Hansen

Hansen, 47, was born in London, Ont., raised on a farm just outside the nearby village of Ailsa Craig, and then moved to neighbouring Ingersoll for high school.

In 1988, at the age of 12, he joined the 614 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron in London, earning his glider pilot wings at age 16, and his private pilot licence a year later.

He then attended Royal Military College Saint-Jean in Quebec. He holds a bachelor’s degree in honours space science, and a rank of colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces. Before being selected by the CSA alongside Saint Jacques in 2009 (5,350 applicants, two chosen), he served as a CF-18 fighter pilot with 441 Tactical Fighter Squadron and 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron as well as the Combat Operations Officer at 4 Wing Operations.

Since becoming an astronaut, he has participated in programs that mimic space exploration on Earth, including a cave mission organized by the European Space Agency, and NEEMO, the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations habitat off Key Largo, Fla. In 2017 he became the first Canadian to be entrusted with leading a NASA astronaut class.

“Staring back at the Earth” will be a personal priority during the Artemis 2 mission, he told the National Post in an interview after he was selected for that mission. “We’ll spend some time in low-Earth orbit, then high-Earth orbit, checking things out. I’ll have an opportunity to look past the moon at our planet hanging in space. I have this inspiration about this thought.”

Asked how he felt about being the lone “rookie” on the four-person mission — the three NASA astronauts have all flown before — he didn’t seem troubled. “It doesn’t feel any different,” he said. “It feels like my path. This is how it all played out.”

He added: “It would be tough to be going with four rookies so I’m grateful for their experience.”

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