Ottawa residents among finalists to become next Canadian astronauts

Two men who call the Capital their home are among 17 finalists to become Canada’s next astronauts.

Science and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains was in Toronto Monday to announce the 12 men and five women who will undergo the last rounds of assessments as part of the Canadian Space Agency competition.

Jason Leuschen and Robert Riddell both live in the Capital, according to their profiles on the Canadian Space Agency’s website.

Leuschen was born in Murrayville, B.C. He currently serves as a student pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He says, in a brief video on his profile, that he would most like to explore Mars.

“I’d love to see the red dust sandstorms, the white polar ice caps, and the solar system’s largest volcano,” he says. “Plus, the gravity is only 37 per cent of Earth’s so I might finally be able to dunk a basketball.”

Riddell was born in Belleville, Ontario. He’s a medical officer for the Canadian Armed Forces, and obtained a Bachelor’s in biochemistry from the University of Ottawa. In his profile video, he says he really wants to go to the Moon.

“For some of you, that might not sound so exciting, given all the talk about Mars,” he says, “but for me, growing up, the earliest memories I have of astronauts are pictures of them walking on the Moon.”

The Canadian Space Agency will announce which two people will become Canada’s next astronauts this summer. The selected applicants will then make their way to Houston, Texas to begin basic training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.