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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Astronauts wanted
Michelle Thompson

Thompson, Michelle

Where were you born?
North York, Ontario, Canada

Where do you currently live?
Houston, Texas, USA

Education

  • Bachelor's, geological engineering – Queen's University
  • Bachelor's, biology – Queen's University
  • Master's, planetary science – University of Arizona
  • Ph.D., planetary science – University of Arizona

The astronaut candidates during the second series of aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency, MCpl Chris Ringius, DND)

The astronaut candidates during the second series of aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency, MCpl Chris Ringius, DND)

The astronaut candidates during the second series of aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency, MCpl Chris Ringius, DND)

The astronaut candidates during the second series of aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency, MCpl Chris Ringius, DND)

Photo of the astronaut candidate during the aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

Photo of the astronaut candidate during the aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

Photo of the astronaut candidate during the aptitude tests. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

What is your current job?

NASA postdoctoral fellow, Johnson Space Center - My research focuses on the origin and alteration of planetary materials. I study the chemical composition and microstructure of meteorites, lunar soils returned from the Moon by the Apollo missions, and dust grains from near-Earth asteroid Itokawa. I use analytical techniques to understand how these materials are altered on the surfaces of airless bodies due to their exposure to interplanetary space.

Why do you want to become an astronaut?

I want to understand our place in the solar system, and the best way to do that is to explore it for myself. I want to bring all Canadians to space with me, making the study of outer space accessible to everyone across the country. I want to inspire other young men and women to explore what lies beyond the confines of Earth. I have had the privilege of studying the rocks that astronauts brought back from the Moon, and I want to contribute to the legacy of scientific exploration enabled by human space flight.

What motivated you to study in your field?

I have always been fascinated by the Earth: how did it form? How did we get here? What are the keys to life on our planet? I sought answers to these questions by studying in the fields of geology and biology. As I learned more about the formation and composition of our planet, I started to expand my thinking to consider the rest of the solar system. I realized that studying rocks from Earth was great, but studying rocks from space was even better!

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

While all of my teachers have been exceptionally encouraging throughout my career, my high school biology teacher, Mr. Cordukes, was among the first to treat me like a colleague instead of a student. When I asked questions and discussed scientific concepts with him, I felt like he treated me as an equal: a fellow explorer. He encouraged me to pursue a career in science and made me feel like I had ideas worth sharing.

What do you like best about your job?

The entire solar system is my laboratory! Working on planetary materials means that every single day I learn something new. I can go to work and hold pieces of the Moon and asteroids in my hands. The work I do is all about discovery and exploration, which is an incredible way to spend the day. The samples I study provide new insight into the formation and evolution of many types of planetary bodies, and it is exciting to be able to contribute to our understanding of the solar system.

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

I have always looked up to women who are pioneers in space exploration. Roberta Bondar, Julie Payette, and Sally Ride have all inspired me to work hard and keep exploring in pursuit of my dreams. They are my role models and showed me as a young woman that I could do anything I set my mind to.

What is your favourite sci-fi movie?

Contact.

What is your motto?

Whatever I'm doing, I'm always living the dream.

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

What is your most treasured possession?

What is your favourite place on Earth?

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

What is your favourite book?