Get ready, overachievers, the Canadian Space Agency is looking to hire two more astronauts.
A new recruitment campaign, kicked off in Ottawa this morning by federal Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Singh Bains, marks the fourth in the agency's history.
Given the long lead time needed to have astronauts ready for space flight, the opportunity signals that Canada is likely to be a participant in efforts to extend human space flight beyond low Earth orbit starting some time in the middle of the next decade.
In addition to visits to the International Space Station, astronauts recruited in this round might conceivably find themselves involved in a mission to the moon or a nearby asteroid years from now in the lead-up to a longer-term push to put humans on Mars.
"We know that in the future there's going to be a mix of short-duration flights and, for exploration missions, very long-duration flights," said Gilles Leclerc, the agency's director-general for space exploration. "We want our candidates to be as versatile as possible, competent – qualified and physically and mentally prepared to take part in any mission that our international partnership may put together."
The opportunity calls for candidates in excellent health with university degrees in science, medicine or engineering, at least three years of professional experience and a host of personality-related strengths, including good communication and teamwork skills, high motivation and resourcefulness.
The agency said it would accept applications for the two slots until Aug. 15. Applicants selected in the first round will be put through a rigorous selection process. The two successful applicants will then begin a five-year training process that includes NASA's astronaut course, starting in the summer of 2017. The astronauts would, in principle, be ready for assignment as early as 2022, though in all likelihood their first voyages into space would come some years after that.
During his presentation, Mr. Bains was backed by Canada's only two active astronauts, David Saint-Jacques and Jeremy Hansen, who were both selected from about 5,400 applicants in the 2009 campaign.
Last month, the agency announced that Dr. Saint-Jacques, an astrophysicist and physician, would make his first trip to the International Space Station in the fall of 2018. Mr. Hansen, previously a fighter pilot and lieutenant-colonel in the Canadian air force, is expected to fly before 2024.
Mr. Hansen said he was pleased that the Canadian astronaut corps would be expanding again after the departure of a wave of recruits who helped build and man the space station, including Chris Hadfield, who retired from the space program in 2013.
"When you bring in new people, it's just going to be reinvigorating for everybody," he said.
Seven years after he first applied to become an astronaut, Mr. Hansen said he continues to be surprised and challenged by a job that has taken him around the world, had him living at the bottom of the ocean for a week and is still on course to put him in space.
Asked what advice he had for new recruits, he said the process was gruelling but ultimately rewarding by giving candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their potential.
"Just bring your real true self, the best self you can bring," he said.