Three Manitobans with the right stuff

On shortlist to become next astronaut


Advertise with us

Three people with ties to Manitoba are in the running to become Canada's next astronaut.

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe:

Monthly Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles

*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/03/2009 (5185 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Three people with ties to Manitoba are in the running to become Canada’s next astronaut.

"It’s the thrill of a lifetime — it’s fantastic!" said Keith Wilson, 38, a Winnipegger who made the shortlist of 16 in the Canadian Space Agency’s year-long national astronaut recruitment campaign.

The former military helicopter test pilot, who is now in medical school at the University of Manitoba, learned Monday he made the cut. After 5,351 applied last year, only two will be selected in May for Canada’s Astronaut Corps and attend astronaut school in Houston, Texas this August.

CNS Keith Wilson.

The 16 wannabe astronauts — one woman and 15 men — were introduced at a news conference webcast from Toronto Monday.

Winnipeg born-and-raised Allyson Hindle, the only woman to make the shortlist, earned her master’s degree in science at the U of M in 2002. In 2007, she earned a PhD from Texas A&M University. Hindle is a researcher at the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on the physiology of wild species that have adapted to extreme environments. Her work has taken her to such remote locations as Antarctica.

"Alongside ballerina and teacher, I also wanted to be an astronaut," said Hindle, 30.

She said she isn’t fazed she is the only woman in the group.

"I know that me being a woman or a man has absolutely nothing to do with the reason that I am standing here," Hindle said. "It is really a non-issue for me."

Fellow candidate Mark McCullins, an engineer and military test pilot at 8 Wing in Trenton, Ont., was also raised in Manitoba.

"It wasn’t that long ago that I was sitting at my desk at Fort Richmond Collegiate wondering what lay ahead of me in life," McCullins, 35, said by phone from Toronto after learning he made the shortlist.

"I grew up dreaming about flying airplanes," said Wilson, a second-year U of M medical student who was raised on a grain farm and went to school in Stonewall. He said he dreamed about space travel, too, but it seemed like too much to wish for.

CNS Allyson Hindle

"To me, it seemed like an unrealistic goal," said Wilson, who joined the military right out of high school. He spent 14 years with the Canadian Forces as a military search and rescue helicopter pilot and test pilot. He also worked at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment. Now he’s fulfilling another ambition, to become a medical doctor, and his medical school training is being sponsored by the military. He and his wife have a 13-year-old son and live near the Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg.

For the last several months, he’s spent a week out of every month training and testing to see if he’s got the right stuff to join Canada’s astronaut corps. It’s been challenging as well as and rewarding, said Wilson.

One exercise was staged inside an intensely hot "fire room," he said.

The candidates had to battle a blaze in close quarters wearing protective gear and oxygen masks.

"It was so hot and so exhausting," said Wilson who doesn’t know if he’ll make the final cut in May.

"Regardless of what happens at this point, it’s been an amazing and fantastic opportunity. I’ve gotten to do things I would otherwise not been able to do. The greatest part has been meeting the other candidates… Everybody is a highly motivated, driven individual who has achieved a lot. They’re also a fun group of people."

McCullins, who was born in Northern Ireland but grew up in south Winnipeg, said he’s always wanted to be an astronaut. "I was an air cadet with the Winnipeg 191 squadron, which I credit for getting me where I am today," said McCullins, who lives in Brighton, Ont. with his wife and son, 3.

Mark McCullins

"It really does pay to work hard and follow your dream and for kids to stay in school and do their best — regardless of what it is," said McCullins, who attended Kingston, Ont.’s Royal Military College after high school.


— with files from Canwest News Service

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us