The Royal Canadian Air Force student pilot – who as a child was such a fan of Star Wars, he built a Millennium Falcon cockpit in his basement – is one of 17 hopefuls shooting to be part of the next generation of space explorers.
In early February, 72 people were in the running to fill those two spots, including six with ties to B.C.
That list has now been whittled to 17, including Leuschen, and from those candidates, two will emerge as new members of the Canadian astronaut corps.
These candidates were narrowed down from more than 3,500 submissions last summer.
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is recruiting exceptional people with excellent health; a university education in science, engineering or medicine; and extensive knowledge and experience.
In his CSA profile, Leuschen said he “fell in love with the sky growing up on a farm in The Land of The Living Skies,” referring to Saskatchewan.
“Most days you were treated to an inspiring dawn, which would only be topped by the sunset that followed. Evenings in the field, without an artificial light in sight, I was held in rapture by the Milky Way, the northern lights and the moon.”
He remembers dragging his younger brother out to watch meteor showers and “pondering our place in the universe.”
“I have wanted to be an astronaut, to get a little closer to the heavens, ever since,” Leuschen added.
An Ottawa resident, Leuschen earned a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Saskatchewan.
He is currently training to become a helicopter pilot with the goal of flying search and rescue in the CH-149 Cormorant.
Leuschen said he loves the team focus “drilled into all members of the Royal Canadian Air Force from their first day.”
“I get to meet great personal challenges with a fantastic team of instructors at my back and supportive peers at my side,” Leuschen said in his profile.
“The military makes training extremely demanding, in preparation for the environment we may have to operate in, and no one makes it through without help from their team. Despite the competitive nature of the training, each of us is willing to sacrifice to ensure the success of our peers, because if they succeed, I succeed.”
Along with boots and a flight suit, the military has issued Leuschen a motto: “Sic itur ad astra: such is the pathway to the stars.”
“Of course I’m trusting the Royal Canadian Air Force on the translation; my Latin is rusty,” he said.