One of 17 final candidates vying to be the next Canadian astronaut, Andréane Vidal is a high-achiever chasing her dreams of a better country all the way beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
By Jennifer Lee
Photography by Ted Belton
Andréane Vidal considers herself average.
Take her career path: She is a chemical engineering graduate turned captain in the Canadian Armed Forces. In this role, her responsibilities include research and development of future capabilities, specifically related to “providing the Government of Canada with a flexible, rapid and specialized response capability in the event of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents.” Sounds fairly standard, eh? And the fact this information was derived from the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) astronaut candidate profile page, well that just solidifies how commonplace Andréane professional achievements are, right?
Most definitely no, because this Vaudreuil-Dorion native is anything but average; she is extraordinary.
“I’m normal and those people are wow,” insists Andréane as she begins to explain her path to the Canadian Space Agency. It started last summer when she saw a commercial for CSA’s 2017 astronaut recruitment campaign. In passing, she told her partner that as a child, she wanted to be an astronaut. “Why don’t you apply?” he asked to her surprise.
Now, one year later, Andréane, who once worried she might not be qualified to apply—“I didn’t think I had what it took”—is among 17 final candidates in the running to become the next Canadian astronaut.
Being exceptional is not among Andréane aspirations, it’s simply a consequence of living out the philosophy she hopes Canada as a country might adhere to moving forward into the next 150 years. “If everyone pushed their limits just a little bit more, then as a society we will rise.”
For Andréane, who is always in pursuit of knowledge, pushing the limits means striving for further education. In her case, an endeavour that may just take her past the Earth’s atmosphere. “Always looking to do more,” Andréane sees space exploration as a chance to make a “bigger impact” on Canada and the world.
It all goes back to education. “Any scientist is trying to discover a little bit more… which will help us make better decisions,” she says of her motivation to join the CSA. Citing climate change among the areas of insight that excite her, space travel to her begins with a clear objective: “To understand our planet better.” If selected to be the next Canadian astronaut, Andréane hopes to glean information from the outer limits that might help prevent the “sabotage [of] our own environment.”
Soft-spoken with a piercing intensity in her eyes, Andréane’s contemplative nature is immediately apparent. It’s also inspiring—as are the values she’s refined through her varied experiences. Her take on volunteerism stands out.
As the busy CSA candidate explains, being compassionate and charitable is a way of being, not a list of activities. “You cannot look at life as a linear path, you need to accept that sometimes you will be more busy, sometimes less busy, sometimes you’re going to be more involved in your community, sometimes you are going to be more driven towards your own goals.” It’s the thought that counts—an awareness of one’s community and the world around them, paired with a desire to make both better in whatever way possible.
While Andréane wishes she had more time to volunteer, she cherishes the days she can take to dedicate to this passion, recalling fondly a leave-without-pay she took a few years back to volunteer—for the third time—with a NGO in Bolivia, Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi, dedicated to rehabilitating local wildlife, in addition to advocating for their rights and care.
Environmental consciousness and everyday conscientiousness are among the ideals Andréane hopes to see future generations push forward into the next 150 years. Read on to learn why she believes all this and more is possible. As she says, “we have difficulty sometimes realizing we have potential, if you help someone gain confidence in themselves, they’re going to be better.”
Why is “we” stronger than “me?”
The first thing that comes to mind is Aristotle. “The world is more than the sum of its parts.” To me what this means is each individual brings their own skills and knowledge—everybody has a skill—when two individuals meet and interact, [they] create a relationship between each other…so it’s not just me as an individual or you as an individual, our interaction creates something—another source of potential.
What is the kindest action you’ve been on the receiving end of, and what about the gesture touched you personally?
When I look at my next step in life… my husband encouraged me to do it. When I lacked confidence in myself, he was the one who said, “I know you can do it.” And now we’re [down to] the last 17 [Canadian Space Agency candidates], and I keep saying the chances of me getting it are low, but he keeps saying, “No, you’re going to get it—you’re the best.” That daily encouragement is what everybody needs in life. Everybody has potential.
Fill in the blank: Moving forward into the next 150 years, our country needs [blank] in order to build a more caring and compassionate Canada.
If everyone tried for the best, then the world would be good. Also… a little more common sense, keep your sense of humour and be tolerant.
Describe the core values of your ideal Canada.
Conscientiousness, equality, environmental awareness and cultural intelligence. This is a big one. It means understanding what is going on around us and by understanding, we can be more tolerant and act [in a way] that won’t hurt somebody else.
What small action have you taken in present day to help secure a brighter future for our country tomorrow?
Reading this question I thought, “No, I’m just a normal person,” but then I started to reflect… I can’t say that every day I’m doing something to contribute, I wish I could. I did some international volunteering in the past and that’s something I want to do again. I loved it.
What’s one action you want people to take in order to build a better country?
Pursuit of excellence…everyone always trying their best and [also being] conscientious—doing the right thing. Go the extra mile.