Watch This Space: Alum Michelle Whitty is in the running to be Canada’s next astronaut

An astronaut working in space.

“The thought of a lifetime of learning, travelling and adventure makes me excited.”

- Michelle Whitty.

Michelle Witty was sitting under an open night sky when she learned that the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) was recruiting. Less than a year later, she is now a contender for one of the most coveted jobs in the world.

“I was sitting around a campfire… when someone mentioned that the CSA was taking applications for two astronaut positions,” Whitty explained to CSA. “I almost couldn't contain my excitement. I had been waiting for this moment for years, ever since my parents sent me to astronaut camp in 1994.”

Whitty is a 2014 alum of the Faculty of Medicine’s MD program and currently Captain in the Canadian Armed Forces. Knowing that CSA recruitments were in 2009, 1992 and 1983 and that these chances don’t come up every day, Whitty knew it was time to take that step toward her dream.

“The thought of a lifetime of learning, travelling and adventure makes me excited,” said Whitty. “I am thrilled at the opportunity to be able to merge the fields of medicine, engineering and space exploration and push the limits of human knowledge.”

Late last summer, 72 candidates were selected from over 3,000 applications. The field was cut to 32 in February and then to 17 in March. After final testing last month in Quebec, two successful candidates will be announced in June and named the newest members of Canada’s Astronaut Corps.

The latest round of 17 candidates boasts one other uOttawa alum. Robert Riddell is a graduate of the Faculty of Science, and is currently serving as a medical officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.

If Whitty is selected, she will spend two years training with NASA, after which her role will be to support space missions in progress. Extensive training prepares them for space missions of their own.

Space travel is particularly near and dear to the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine. Since 2015 astronauts have helped to facilitate the MARROW study, funded by the Canadian Space Agency and led by Dr. Guy Trudel, professor in the Faculty and specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and Odette Laneuville, professor in the Faculty of Science and expert in the biology of rehabilitation.

Congratulations to Dr. Whitty for making it this far and for being such a wonderful role model for all of us. We at the Faculty of Medicine remind our students that you too are the brightest, and that if you set your mind to something, nothing is out of reach—not even the stars.

Interested in walking in Michelle Whitty’s moonboots? Visit CSA’s website to find out how to become an astronaut.

Read Michelle Whitty’s profile here.

Read Robert Riddell’s profile here.


Main photo credit: NASA

Michelle Whitty operates a controlling device while being evaluated.

Michelle Whitty participating in the astronaut selection process during the third series of aptitude tests. @ Canadian Space Agency


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