PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Canadian Space Agency is on the hunt for two new astronauts to join its ranks.

Almost 4,000 people stepped forward. Evan Thomas is one of them. He's a professor of mechanical engineering and public health at Portland State University.

“It’s been a 10-month journey already,” said Thomas. “They've been cutting and cutting and cutting. I've been in Canada five times in the past five months for testing and evaluation. We're down to 17 finalists now."

He's gone through rigorous tests that stretch his mental and physical strength.

“I'm just happy to be still in the game. We've been going through all sorts of testing. We've been fighting fires and floods and getting dunked into tanks and getting flipped upside down, and doing Etch A Sketches and working in teams,” Thomas said.

The teams include people at the top of their fields. From scientists, to doctors, to fighter pilots, the agency is looking for the best.

“It’s really gone from feeling like a competition to feeling like a team. We’re hoping the Canadians will change their mind they will hire all 17 of us,” said Thomas.

But the Canadian Space Agency is expected to only pick two new astronauts this summer.

They will train in Houston alongside American and European astronauts. Thomas said much of the job will be based on the ground. He said it’s possible the two new astronauts could train on earth for as long as 10 years before going up in space.

If Thomas doesn’t advance, he said he’s happy to have made it as far as he did.

Thomas has been teaching at PSU for the past seven years. His lab works in 15 countries around the world on things like water sanitation and energy for developing countries. Their biggest program is in Rwanda where 1.5 million people now have clean cook stoves and household water treatments. His team also makes and installs sensors in water pumps around the world to monitor how they’re functioning.

Click here to track Thomas' progress