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Pool of potential Canadian astronauts down to 72

Chris Hadfield poses with the Canadian flag in the cupola of the International Space Station. The Canadian Press

An engineer from Iqaluit, a military test pilot from Calgary, a heart surgeon from Germany and a SpaceX mission manager from Ottawa are among the short-list of candidates hoping to join Canada’s elite team of astronauts.

The Canadian Space Agency released the list of 72 people who have made it past the first stage of competition on Wednesday.

The original pool was 3,772 applicants. In the end, only two will be chosen.

The list is dominated by engineers, military personnel and medical professionals.

Janjua is a Calgary native on loan to the U.S. air force and is currently stationed in California testing the F-16 fighter jet.

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Winnipeg-born Allyson Hindle, who studies animals that live in extreme environments at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told the CSA that space exploration is “incredibly important for the future of our species.”

“I have always been driven to explore, and to ask questions about the world,” the finalist wrote.

“I want to become an astronaut because I see human spaceflight as a way to further these goals and help the world through discovery.”

Of the 72 still standing, 23 (or 32 per cent) are women. That reflects the initial pool of applications, which was about 70 per cent male.

The candidates come from all over Canada, including the territories, and there are several who are foreign-born. All applicants had to be Canadian citizens, however.

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The finalists all have a few things in common. First, they have a science background and are university educated and experienced in their fields. They’re also in great physical shape and have excellent vision and hearing, which is a must for anyone hoping to blast into space.

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Over the next few months, the CSA is expected to whittle down the field to 20 candidates, then announce the final selections sometime over the summer.

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Between now and then, the candidates need to undergo video-conference interviews, extensive medical tests, stress tests, security clearances and final interviews.

The two who are eventually chosen will relocate to Houston, Texas to continue their training in August. It could be years before they actually rocket into space.

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