WINNIPEG — Sara Spangelo was on a field trip with her class in Grade 8 when she realized she wanted to become an astronaut.
“I remember the one-sixth gravity wall and these missions where we were pilots…. I came back from that like, I’m going to be an astronaut when I grow up,” she said.
Spangelo is one of 32 candidates in the running to become one of two newly minted Canadian astronauts. This summer, she will find out if that dream will become a reality.
Spangelo did her undergrad in mechanical engineering at the University of Manitoba, where she was born and raised, in Winnipeg.
She went on to do her masters degree and PhD at the University of Michigan. Spangelo also worked at the NASA Centre in Pasadena, California. She is currently a systems engineer at Google X.
“I got my pilot’s license, scuba diving, I’ve been very active, a swimmer growing up, so all the pieces kind of came together,” Spangelo said.
“Lines up nicely for being an astronaut as well.”
She recently went through rigorous mental and physical testing to become Canada’s next astronaut in cities across Canada.
“They’re waking you up at five in the morning and they have you going until midnight, just alternating, physical stuff, team dynamics… swimming, running, everything that you could imagine.”
While training in Halifax, Spangelo and a team had to escape from a submerged vehicle underwater, fight fires, fix leaks and survive in floods.
There’s at least three more sessions ahead, Spangelo said.
WATCH: Competing to become Canada’s next astronauts
“I think there’ll be another kind of stress, psychological type test and then there’ll be interviews and some public speaking,”
“It’s an amazing opportunity… I think the best part is meeting the other candidates, it’s just a group of incredible Canadians, surgeons and doctors and flight test engineers and test pilots and the backgrounds are just so phenomenal,” she said.
“The Canadians are just so kind and nice, it doesn’t feel like it’s a competitive spirit, it’s like a team just trying to get through those days together.”
Spangelo wants to encourage girls and boys following in her footsteps to never follow the status quo.
“Always explore the next thing, get the next challenge, explore a new language… I always kind of push myself to new challenges which has been good so far.”
“I encourage everyone to kind of think, what’s my dream, how do I get there and continue to push for it as much as possible,” Spangelo said.
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