Astronaut candidate's profile

The candidates participating in the astronaut selection process all have unique journeys and outstanding qualities and skills. You can read their remarkable profiles here.

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Lajoie, Charles-Philippe

Charles-Philippe Lajoie

Where were you born?
Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Education

  • Ph.D., physics & astronomy – McMaster University

What is your current job?

Astronomical Optics Scientist (Level II) - I work on the James Webb Space Telescope, a project led by NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency. JWST will be bigger and more complex than any other space telescope, and my team and I are preparing for the on-orbit alignment of its 19 individual mirror segments. In a precise choreography, each mirror will be remotely controlled in order to form a near-perfect 6.5-metre mirror surface. We are currently testing the mirror hardware along with the flight software in one of NASA's clean rooms, as well as planning for the operations of this amazing observatory.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

As a kid growing up with images of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Apollo missions, becoming an astronaut has always been a dream, albeit one I knew is hard to reach. I also love pushing my limits and seeking new challenges and adventures, and I have always regarded an astronaut career as the embodiment of such a lifestyle. Now, with this opportunity to further Canada's space program and contribute to taking humankind back to the Moon and to Mars, I can only be grateful that another of my dreams might come true.

If you could pick one place to explore in our solar system where would you go?

What motivated you to study in your field?

Ever since I first saw Venus in the night sky around the age of 12, I have had a passion for astronomy and space. The fact that other planets can be seen with the naked eye simply amazed me and, from that age on, I was set on a career where I would study planets, stars, galaxies, and hopefully answer the question of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. Even to this day, with tens of exoplanets being discovered routinely, I can't help but still be excited by the wonders of space and astronomy!

Think back to a teacher who had a positive impact on your life. What did she/he do to influence you?

My master's degree supervisor was a great mentor from whom I learned scientific and professional rigour as well as a strong sense of ownership and pride in my work. He never explicitly taught me these things, but rather he lived and worked by these principles. As a result, I believe I have grown into a capable scientist, producing quality research with a deep sense of integrity.

What do you like best about your job?

What I like best about my current job is that it is located at one of the world's top astronomy institutes. The opportunities to hear about the latest discoveries on exoplanets or high-redshift galaxies, among others, are numerous, and it's hard not to be excited for another day at work. I also get to work on some of the most amazing space telescope technology ever to be launched, along with some of the smartest people I have ever met. This combination of technology and people has made my current job very exciting and fulfilling.

Which living person do you most admire? OR Who are your heroes in real life?

The people I have come to admire the most are my current team members, with whom I interact on a daily basis. They have contributed to the success of the Hubble Space Telescope, designed and built some of the most sensitive instruments used to detect faint exoplanets, and are now the visionaries of the future space telescopes. Their various backgrounds, experience, and personalities make them very effective and versatile assets to the JWST project, and I feel privileged to work with and learn from them.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

The Star Wars trilogy.

What is your motto?

Don't just stumble your way through life or wait for it to simply happen – chase your dreams actively and seize every occasion you get to fulfill them!

At what age did you decide to become an astronaut?

What is the best career advice you've ever received?

Don't define yourself only by your academic degree; instead bank on your transferable skills. Having a degree provides you with expertise in your field but also with strong transferable skills that you can apply to a wide variety of jobs and situations.

What is your most treasured possession?

My guitar – I don't play it very often, but I have had it since I was 18 years old and I still treasure it.

What is your favourite place on Earth?

My family cabin, which we can only get to by boat or snowmobile. Remote, peaceful, and beautiful.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I consider my greatest and proudest achievement to be earning my Ph.D. in physics and astronomy while playing on the university men's lacrosse team. Although both of those endeavours required dedication and hard work, completing my Ph.D. without the liberating and stress-relieving benefits of competitive sports would certainly have been even harder!

What is your favourite book?

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

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