December 04, 2023

Joshua Kutryk heads to the International Space Station

Some thoughts on Joshua's 2025 flight to the ISS

Two weeks ago, the Canadian Space Agency announced flight assignments for two astronauts, Joshua Kutryk and Jenni Gibbons.

Quick recap: we have four active Canadian astronauts. David-Saint Jacques, who did a six-month stay on the International Space Station in 2019, and Jeremy Hansen who is scheduled for the Artemis II mission around the Moon as early as November 2024. 

The last two remaining active astronauts just got their assignments.

Four active Canadian astronauts: David Saint-Jacques, Jeremy Hansen, Jenni Gibbons, and Joshua Kutryk

Jenni Gibbons has been assigned as backup to Jeremy Hansen, just in case something happens and he can't go. There's a lot to unpack there, so I'll save that for a separate post.

Joshua Kutryk got assigned a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. The mission could happen as soon as early 2025. Let's look at some of the interesting tidbits about it.

Getting There: Boeing Starliner

When the Space Shuttle retired in 2011, the only way to get to the ISS was with the Russian Soyuz craft. This is how Chris Hadfield got there in 2013, and how David Saint-Jacques got there in 2019.

In 2020, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon craft began operational flights to the ISS. Since then, the USA and other partner countries have sent most crews with this vehicle. It's had a great and reliable run so far.

But Joshua won't be going up in this bird. Instead, he’ll be flying on the Boeing Starliner craft.

Boeing Starliner in orbit. Credit: NASA.
Credit: NASA

Starliner's development has been... interesting. Like most new space vehicles, it's been delayed for years, but has also been marred by issues in its two flight tests into space.

Those test flights had no crew aboard, but in April 2024, the first crewed test is planned.

If all goes well, Joshua could be flying as early as January 2025 as the first official crew of Boeing Starliner.

Two Canadians in Space At Once?

Only once has there been two CSA astronauts in space: in 2009 when Julie Payette was on a 16 day Space Shuttle mission while Robert Thirsk was on a 6 month mission aboard the ISS.

Julie Payette and Robert Thirsk in space
Credit: NASA

Just spitballing: let’s say Joshua’s mission goes up on time in January 2025. Then, the Artemis II mission with Jeremy Hansen is a few months delayed.

That means that Joshua would be in orbit around Earth while Jeremy is on his way with his crew around the Moon.

This is common for USA and Russia, but for Canada it's a rare moment.

Last Canadian Astronaut to ISS?

The ISS is set to be de-orbited in 2030. That’s a moving target and could be extended, but let’s assume that date.

Chris Hadfield launched to the ISS in December 2012. Six years later, David Saint-Jacques headed to the ISS in December 2018.

It’s not a big dataset, but there’s a pattern: a CSA astronaut goes to the ISS about every 6 years. If Joshua goes up in January 2025 and arrives home in July 2025, this means that he might be the last CSA astronaut to live long-term on the ISS.

Mission Patch

For some CSA missions, the tastes of the astronaut is imbued in their patch.

A prime example is Robert Thirsk's patches for his two missions. Thirsk is an admirer of Pacific Northwest Indigenous art and each patch was designed by Tsimshian artist Bill Helin.

You can see every CSA astronaut's mission here, along with each mission's patch. You can even buy each of these mission patches from the Ingenium store.

I’m curious when Joshua’s mission patch will be released and what it will contain. I'll admit to not being as tuned in when David Saint-Jacques mission was in the works, so I'll be watching more closely this time around.

In videos and presentations, Joshua has referenced his upbringing in rural Alberta as he watched the night sky. As a kid who also grew up in rural Alberta and did much the same, I can't help but wonder if that'll play in to the design.

BONUS: Both crew are from Alberta

Jenni Gibbons and Joshua Kutryk
Credit: CSA

Alright, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it: both Joshua and Jenni are from Alberta.

While I think my home province is in a political what-the-hell? moment right now, I can't help but feel pride in seeing people like Joshua and Jenni come from there.

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