Calgary man hopes to make space dreams come alive
Many people dream about becoming an astronaut and few realize just how difficult it is to achieve that dream but one Calgary man hopes to beat the curve.
Tahir Merali was first inspired to become an astronaut when he visited the Kennedy Space Centre when he was five years old.
He then met Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar when he was seven, pushing him to eventually complete a series of degrees, including one in engineering and then a masters in space management.
Merali now runs a space consulting company but hopes to make the cut out of 3,400 applicants for just two astronaut positions with the Canadian Space Agency. 243 of those are from Calgary.
The selection process is unbelievably competitive and has only happened in Canada four times.
Only 12 people have been selected in the recruitments from a field of 14,000.
Calgarian Dr. Doug ‘Hamy’ Hamilton was among the final candidates in 1992.
“At least the final groups, if you were to write their names on a piece of paper and throw them down the stairs and pick up the first couple, they would complete the mission,” he said.
Hamilton, a former flight surgeon with NASA, supported 50 shuttle and 25 space station missions and understands the dedication and personal sacrifice of everyone in the space program.
Even if Merali is picked by the CSA, that doesn’t mean that he will necessarily be able to go to space. Just eight Canadian astronauts have gone, with a ninth scheduled to go in 2017.
He still knows what it takes to get there.
“I worked there as an astronaut trainer,” he said. “I was developing lessons and curriculum for astronauts to train on the Columbus Laboratory aboard the space station.”
Merali’s students included David St. Jacques and Jeremy Hanson, Canada’s two current astronauts.
The application deadline is August 15, but final selection won’t be complete until next summer.