Bob Thirsk holds the record for longest space flight by a Canadian at over three months. He also holds the record for the most time spent in space by a Canadian: 204 days and 18 hours.
For a boy from Powell River, B.C., whose Grade 3 teacher brought a radio into class so her students could listen to John Glenn’s attempt to become the first American to orbit the Earth, these achievements were the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
Back in the 1960s, Canadians or anyone who wasn’t Russian or American had little hope of ever flying into space. All that changed with the Space Shuttle program. The U.S, grateful for Canada’s contribution of the Canadarm, invited Canadians to join their space program in 1983. Bob Thirsk was among the original six Canadian astronauts selected but didn’t fly until 1996, after Marc Garneau, Canada’s first man in space, had his second flight.
Thirsk, a medical doctor, spent over six months on the International Space Station in 2009 as part of a study on long-term effects of zero gravity. Thirsk, besides being a physician, is also an engineer and an MBA graduate. He has since left the space agency and is now chancellor of the University of Calgary. Catherine Clark spoke to Bob Thirsk in Calgary.
Born into political life in Ottawa, Catherine Clark is no stranger to being in the public eye. As founding host of CPAC’s popular weekly television show Beyond Politics, Catherine interviews Members of Parliament, Premiers and people of influence to reveal the personal, human side of public life. Catherine is also a sought-after public speaker and emcee, and writes the “Giving Back” column for Ottawa at Home Magazine, profiling people who are improving the lives of their fellow citizens.