Q&A with Canadian Astronaut Candidate Joshua Kutryk

Joshua Kutryk (Credit: CSA)

Q & A with Joshua Kutryk

During the astronaut recruitment campaign, we asked the candidates to answer some questions about their motivation to become an astronaut, the people who inspired them and much more. Here are Joshua Kutryk’s answers.

Space and exploration

Why did you want to become an astronaut?

As a child I was fascinated with space. I knew that my life would focus on helping explore it. As an adult, I realize human space exploration is important to us all as individuals and as Canadians. I have always wanted to leave the world a better place than I found it, and I believe that space is one area where I can do so. I want to serve Canadians in a way befitting my aptitudes and interests. I want to inspire them. Above all, I want to help humanity broaden its collective horizon.

Work and Studies

What motivated you to study in your field?

Physics and math were my favourite subjects in high school – I was continually amazed by how those subjects explained the world around me. I couldn’t fly into space as a child, but I could fly into the atmosphere. I went for a ride in a light aircraft when I was nine years old. When we landed I knew that I wanted to fly, and that I wanted to understand in detail the science and engineering that made flying possible. I was inspired. My motivation to study aerospace at the highest levels had been set.

What did you like best about your job as a test pilot?

As a test pilot, I had a job that combined two of my favourite things on a daily basis: engineering and high-performance flying. I like the challenges of testing new technical systems aboard high-performance jets, and I especially like the teamwork that goes into solving those challenges. I got to work with aerospace engineers, analysts, aircraft technicians, program managers and corporate executives, all with the goal of making the F-18 safer and more effective in its mission.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

In , while studying at the Edwards Flight Test Center (where humans first broke the speed of sound), the United States Air Force selected me to receive the Liethen-Tittle Award for top test pilot graduate. I was the first Canadian since Chris Hadfield to receive that recognition. This particular achievement has always been special to me. Receiving the award not only took a lot of academic work and test flying expertise, but it also required significant teamwork. The experience showed me what Canada could achieve internationally when working with foreign partners in aerospace fields.

Joshua Kutryk during the second series of aptitude tests. (Credits: Canadian Space Agency, MCpl Chris Ringius, DND)

Advice and Inspiration

What is your motto?

Live passionately so that you may learn about the world. Learn about the world so that you may play a part in making it better.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Throughout my life, my father would instruct me to seek out new experiences. He maintained that pursuing a wide balance and breadth of experience was the key to success. As a child this meant participating in a lot of extracurricular and community activities, even ones that didn’t interest me at the time. As an adult, this advice has served me well both professionally and personally. I have learned to embrace new, unknown experiences and not to fear them. The advice remains a prominent factor in all my career decisions.

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

When I was in grade six my teacher (his name was Ted) had just returned to Canada following an extended cycling trip to India. To me, this was an initial glimpse at the kind of exploratory and adventurous life I wanted to live. His stories of riding a bike across a foreign country inspired me and had a very real effect on later decisions I would make. In fact, I still stay in touch with him. He is a principal now at a school in Whitehorse, Yukon, where I was fortunate enough to spend a few childhood years.

Which living person do you most admire? Or Who are your heroes in real life?

Many of my real-life heroes are test pilots working on experimental spaceships for commercial space exploration ventures. Role models have played an important part in my life. Growing up I wanted to be like Amelia Earhart and Chuck Yeager because they challenged the accepted limits of the day. As a teenager, Neil Armstrong left a large impression on me because he combined academic rigour with test flying to help take humans to the moon. As an adult, I am motivated by Chris Hadfield, and I admire Elon Musk’s ambitious attempt to improve humanity’s future despite daunting odds.

Personal tastes and favourites

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

: A Space Odyssey. (There is a lot that we can all learn from HAL!)

What is your favourite book?

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. This true story is a testament to the power of the human spirit. If you have ever wondered just how much a small team can accomplish in terms of endurance, exploration and sheer survival, then you should read this book. You may find that doing so will leave you with a new understanding of the word “impossible.”

What is your favourite place on Earth?

The farm where I grew up, on the prairie farmland of eastern Alberta. Having travelled the entire world, I am still struck by the tranquility of that particular Canadian landscape. Aside from a few Arctic mountaintops, there are few places where the night sky is as magnificent as it is there. It is also one of the quietest places I know.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have an antique timepiece that my dad used as a child. His father passed it on to him, and it is entirely mechanical. To me it offers a unique perspective on the pace of human innovation. My father grew up in a house without running water or electricity, at a time where the majority of the food came directly from the family farm. Only one generation later, I frequently work from a newer house on that same farmyard, continually communicating with people all over the world using satellite technology. #amazinginnovation