Next Canadian Astronaut Might Come From U of G

March 16, 2009 - Campus Bulletin

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has announced the top 16 candidates in the National Astronaut Recruitment Campaign, including two with strong ties to the University of Guelph.

Matt Bamsey, a PhD candidate working on life-support systems that will enable future space travellers to grow plants for food in extreme environments, and Ryan Hunter, a two-time U of G graduate now doing post-doctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, were introduced on Monday along with 14 others competing for just two positions in Canada’s astronaut corps.

"The top 16 candidates in the National Astronaut Recruitment Campaign represent an incredibly accomplished, well-rounded and diverse group of Canadians," said CSA president and former astronaut Steve MacLean.

Hunter, of Mississauga, completed a B.Sc. in microbiology at U of G in 2000 and his PhD in 2007. He is currently working on a post-doctoral fellowship from the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at MIT, where he is also part of a NASA-funded study on microbiology. His research focuses on the origins of life on Earth and the interaction between living organisms and their environment.

Bamsey was raised in Guelph but completed degrees in aerospace engineering at Carleton and the University of Colorado prior to doctoral studies at U of G. He divides his time between Guelph, where he is completing his PhD in environmental biology with Prof. Mike Dixon, and Montreal, where he is a researcher with the CSA’s space science – planetary exploration division.

More than 5,300 applied when the recruitment drive was launched last May. Only 79 were granted preliminary interviews. The field was narrowed over the past several months as the CSA put the candidates through a series of medical exams and physical and mental challenges in sometimes extreme conditions.

Two will be chosen from the final 16 to join Canada's astronaut corps in May. They may one day represent Canada in future space exploration missions, including long-duration spaceflights on the International Space Station.

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