A man who grew up in Saskatchewan staring at the night sky may soon have his chance to join the stars.
Jason Leuschen, a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force, is one of 72 candidates remaining for the Canadian Space Agency's 2 astronaut positions. Leuschen was born in BC, but he and his family moved to a farm near Bruno, which is about 90 kilometres east of Saskatoon, when he was 4 years old. Leuschen says he fell in love with the sky growing up, saying "I would climb up on the grainaries at night to watch the sunset, or watch the Northern Lights snowmobiling in the winter, and it was just something I've wanted to do, that and flying, which are closely related". Leuschen also says he was a "science nerd" growing up, taking part in Canada-wide science fairs. He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Last summer, Leuschen, along with 3,371 other applicants, sent in their applications to the Canadian Space Agency. Since then, Leuschen says he has gone through screening and testing, and has made it to the final 72. Leuschen says it's "pretty unreal" to be part of the final group of potential candidates, adding that "it's a realization of a whole bunch of things I've worked towards my whole life". He says there are two or three more tests, which he anticipates will involve physical tests and motor skills, before the final interviews in April. Leuschen believes his Saskatchewan roots could benefit his chances of standing out. He says by growing up on a farm, he learned to be self-relient and hands-on, needing to fix equipment in the field, which he says fits well with a space station, where the astronauts on board are responsible for keeping the facility operating. The Canadian Space Agency plans to announce the winners in the summer, and in August, Canada's newest astronauts will head to Houston for NASA basic training. Leuschen says getting the job would be equivalent to "winning the nerd Super Bowl", adding "I couldn't ask for anything else". Leuschen would be only the second person with roots in Saskatchewan to be chosen by the Canadian Space Agency, joining Saskatoon-born Dave Williams.
(picture in general news folder under "jason_leuschen")