Canada's newest astronauts Jennifer Sidey and Joshua Kutryk answer questions from the audience during a visit to the Canadian Space Agency in Saint-Hubert, Que., Tuesday, July 4, 2017. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

2 Canadian astronauts graduate from NASA school, ready for missions to moon

Canadian astronauts Jenni Sidey-Gibbons and Joshua Kutryk celebrated Friday the end of their basic training, along with their NASA classmates, during a graduation ceremony at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Sidey-Gibbons, who is from Calgary, and Kutryk, who is from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., have spent two years in Houston with 11 NASA astronaut candidates training in NASA’s Artemis program. Their class was the first to be supervised by a Canadian astronaut, Jeremy Hansen.

The Artemis program aims to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 and to be a stepping stone for sending humans to Mars.

Last year, Canada announced its partnership in the Lunar Gateway project with NASA, which is part of the Artemis program that will see the first woman and the next man set foot on the Moon.

Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains called Sidey-Gibbons and Kutryk “modern-day explorers.”

“Not only do they help develop new space technologies, advance scientific knowledge and promote Canada in space, they inspire all Canadians to look to the stars and dream about what is possible,” Bains said in a congratulatory statement. “Jenni and Joshua represent the best of Canada, both with our partners around the world, and our curious young people.”

All astronaut candidates have completed training in spacewalking, robotics, International Space Station systems, as well as learning to fly T-38 supersonic trainer jets and speaking Russian.

Sidey-Gibbons and Kutryk join Canada’s elite cohort of astronauts, becoming the country’s 13th and 14th astronauts.

Kutryk holds the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, as well as master’s degrees in space studies, flight test engineering, and defence studies.

Prior to joining the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Kutryk worked as an experimental test pilot and a fighter pilot in Cold Lake, Alberta, where he led the unit responsible for the operational flight-testing of fighter aircraft in Canada, according to his official biography.

From 2007 to 2011, Kutryk served as a CF-18 fighter pilot with 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron in Bagotville, Quebec. During that time he flew missions in support of Canada’s NATO, UN and NORAD commitments around the world. He has been deployed in both Libya and Afghanistan.

Sidey-Gibbons studied mechanical engineering at McGill University in Montreal and received a doctorate in engineering from the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses in combustion in space.

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