A True Explorer

Joshua Kutryk looks to embark on his career with the Canadian Space Agency

“I’m brand new with the Canadian Space Agency,” astronaut in training Joshua Kutryk says the last six weeks since announcing his acceptance into the astronaut program with the Canadian Space Agency has been a whirlwind adventure, “it’s all still sinking in.” Before taking on the year application process, Kutryk was stationed at 4-Wing Cold Lake.

“I’m most looking forward to the exploring aspect,” there’s a two-year training process, in Houston, before Kutryk is expected to go to space, “if I look back on my life, I’ve always wanted to explore. I think that;s why I went into experimental flying on the F-18. If you look at some of the different things that I’ve done, traveling around the world, mountain climbing… it’s always boiled down to that, exploring.” Kutryk says he’s always been intrigued by explorers throughout history. “That’s what space is, it’s the next ocean to cross, the next frontier.”

What excites me most about this job is being the explorer, being among the very lucky and fortunate select people who get to go there first. – LCol Joshua Kutryk Canadian Space Agency

Military Career with 4-Wing Cold Lake

“I was primarily an Air Force fellow, I was a fighter pilot and did years as a fighter pilot on the F-18. Then I became an experimental test pilot,” in Cold Lake Lieutenant-Colonel Kutryk flew as a test pilot and did work on the aircraft. “I flew for the 410 squadron, I was an instructor and did some other test flying.” With the Royal Canadian Air Force, Kutryk has gone on overseas missions, including to Afghanistan and Libya.

According to his CSA biography, Kutryk has an education to back his real-life flight training, a bachelor in mechanical engineering; master in space studies; master in flight test engineering; master in defense studies.

After logging 2,800 hours of fly time in 25 different aircrafts, Kutryk says the nerves are quite calm now when he goes up in the air; but it wasn’t always that way. “When I started flying as a kid, I remember being nervous. I also remember being very passionate and fascinated by it and wanting to fly. It’s funny, ironic, I had a fear of flying, but I got over it fairly quickly, by doing it.” By learning to fly as a young teenager, Kutryk says he was able to get over his fears.

(LCol) Joshua Kutryk Special Honours:  Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference Delegate (), Liethen-Tittle Award for top test pilot graduate (), Distinguished graduate of the United States Air Force Test Pilot School (), Canadian Forces Decoration (), Article 5 NATO Medal (), Southwest Asia General Campaign Star (), Tristan de Koninck Trophy for F-18 flying skill (), City of Moose Jaw flying trophy (), A.C. Leonard Birchall Award for undergraduate research (), Top Overall Flying Proficiency during primary flight training (), Professional Engineers of Ontario Undergraduate Academic Scholarship (), Right Honourable Don Mazankowski Scholarship (), Governor General’s Academic Medal (), Neil Armstrong Memorial Scholarship (), Alexander Rutherford Scholarship for Academic Achievement ().

Living the Dream

Becoming an astronaut has always been a dream of Kutryk’s, “I have wanted to do this job and work for the Canadian Space Agency since my earliest memories; since I was probably six.” Although that dream was always close to Kutryk, he kept it to himself for many years, “it’s a very difficult [career to achieve]. You have to devote your life to doing it and you have to be fortunate.” Kutryk says the right combination of perseverance, physical and mental health, have lead him to his dream. “I’ve always wanted to [be an astronaut]. I think in school I kept quiet about it because it’s such a far, far bridge to cross.” Instead Kutryk focused on achieving all the right steps it would take to get him to his final destination. “I think if I came out in, say Grade 8, and said ‘I want to be an astronaut’, people may have laughed at me. It’s one of those goals you stay quiet about; but it’s been in the back of my mind for as long as I can remember.”

In 2009, Kutryk was in the Top 16 candidates in the Canada’s astronaut campaign. Out of 5,600 candidates, Kutryk did not make the cut that time around. He says he never looked at that as a failure; but rather continued on his career path until he was accepted in 2017. “I’ve always been good at dealing with disappointment. In 2009, I was a finalist and I had to deal with at the very last moment having to deal with not being selected.” Having hard goals, such as being an astronaut, have taught Kutryk that it’s a process, “I try hard not define success on whether or not I accomplish that goal. Because becoming an astronaut, so many things have to go so perfectly. I don’t define success based on whether or not I succeeded in ’09. I went back to what I’ve always done, I want to work in aerospace, in exploratory fields and in servicing Canada. Those three fields match up well with astronaut, but they also match up well with many other things.”

2017 Application Process

Over the last year, Kutryk has been going through a very intense selection process, “it started with a lot of paperwork to make sure that you have the basic qualifications that they need; academically and professionally. After that, the list gets cut down quite a bit. It very quickly turns into practical testing.” Kutryk explains he would travel every couple of weeks to a different Canadian location. He would be unaware of what the challenge would be when he got there. “You didn’t know what you were going to do when you go there, but you knew it was going to be difficult,” testing would include intellectual and physical challenges, as well as group tasks, “things that were meant to be very challenging and long.”

One of the most challenging parts of the process was the unknown, says Kutryk, “you’re always being watched, you’re always being filmed and watched by psychologists. You never knew whether you were doing well or not.” Kutryk says he would even scan the room and believe that other applicants were performing much better, “it was always such a neat surprise to learn I was moving on.”

While performing the tasks there was multitude of video and photographs taken, which were then studied by psychologists and persons with the Canadian Space Agency. Of the 3,000 that applied to the Canadian Space Agency, Joshua Kutryk and Jennifer Sidley were selected as the 2017 candidates in the astronaut program.

And Beyond… 

“We will train for about two and a half years to qualify for space training,” Kutryk says he has already been down to Houston and trains at NASA, as part of the CSA. “After that we look at what Canada will be doing in space with its astronauts and what missions there may be.”In general terms, Canada does have a space station, “that’s a program that’s extending out to 2024. Canada has invested in it.”

“What’s really exciting is Canada, and the US, along with other partner space training programs, are starting to get ready for, what we are referring to as, exploratory missions. By that I mean, leaving the lower orbit, leaving the realm of the space stations, and going further.” Those details are still being defined, “but they’re fascinating,” says Kutryk. He will not likely know what his mission may be until after the training process.