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Two engineering grads in running to become astronauts

Friday, February 3, 2017

Two graduates of Waterloo Engineering are among 72 candidates still in the running to become Canada’s next astronauts.

Martha Lenio and Jesse Zroback have been shortlisted by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) after 3,772 people from across the country initially applied for two jobs last year.

Martha Lenio

Lenio earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Waterloo in 2004 before doing her doctorate in photovoltaic engineering at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

She now lives in Kitchener and is the owner of Mars Green Consulting, a consulting company in the field of renewable energy. She also helps lead international cycling tours.

“I have always wanted a job that allows me to travel the world and have adventures,” Lenio wrote in a profile released by the CSA. “As I grew up, I realized that ‘astronaut’ is perhaps the perfect career for me – weathering hardships while being exposed to the most amazing places and experiences.”

Volcano dome simulated Mars

In 2014, Lenio became the first woman and the first Canadian to command the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation mission funded by NASA. For eight months, she lived with her five-member crew in a dome on the side of a volcano meant to simulate the environment on Mars.

Zroback graduated from the University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, then earned a doctorate in medicine at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, a joint initiative of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay and Laurentian University in Sudbury.

He is now a family doctor in the remote Ontario community of Marathon, where he works in an emergency room, a hospital and a clinic. He is also an assistant professor at the medical school he attended.

Jesse Zroback

“As a kid, I looked at the night sky in admiration of the moon and of humankind’s accomplishment for having explored its surface,” Zroback wrote in his profile. “Discovery through exploration and adventure is a passion of mine.”

Selected through a rigorous screening process, the remaining 72 hopefuls – including four in all with degrees from the University of Waterloo - will now complete interviews, written exams and fitness tests.

The two successful candidates are scheduled to move to Houston in August to begin basic training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.