Robert Thirsk

From Academic Kids

Robert Thirsk

Robert Thirsk (born August 17, 1953) is a Canadian astronaut.

He is from New Westminster, British Columbia and is married to Brenda Biasutti of Montreal, Quebec. They have three children. Bob enjoys spending time with his family as well as flying, hockey, squash, and playing the piano.

He attended primary and secondary schools in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba and received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Calgary in 1976, a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1978, a doctorate of medicine degree from McGill University in 1982, and a Master of Business Administration degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1998.

He is a member of the Professional Engineers of Ontario, the Canadian College of Family Physicians, the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute, the Aerospace Medical Association, and the Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and of British Columbia. He is also a director of the Canadian Foundation for the International Space University.

He won the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta Gold Medal in 1976 and was the first recipient of the University of Calgary Distinguished Alumni Award (1985). In 1997, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Professional Engineers of Ontario and was awarded honorary membership in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia.

Bob was in the family medicine residency program at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Montreal when he was selected in December 1983 to the Canadian astronaut program. He began astronaut training in February 1984 and served as backup payload specialist to Marc Garneau for space shuttle mission STS-41-G, which flew October 5 to 13, 1984. Bob has participated in several parabolic flight experiment campaigns on board NASA’s KC-135 aircraft and has been involved in various projects relating to space medicine, the International Space Station, mission planning, and education with the Canadian Space Agency. He led an international research team investigating the effect of weightlessness on the heart and blood vessels. His team designed and tested an experimental “anti-gravity suit” that may help astronauts withstand the effects of extended spaceflight on the cardiovascular system.

He served as Chief Astronaut of the Canadian Space Agency in 1993 and 1994. In February 1994, he was crew commander for the CAPSULS mission, a simulated 7-day space mission that involved the participation of several international investigators and three other Canadian astronauts. In 1994-95, Bob completed a sabbatical year in Victoria, British Columbia. During this year, he upgraded his skills in clinical practice, space medicine research and Russian language training.

On June 20, 1996, Bob flew aboard space shuttle mission STS-78 (the life and microgravity Spacelab mission) as a payload specialist. During this 17-day flight aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, Bob and his six crew mates performed 43 experiments devoted to the study of life and materials science. Most of these experiments were conducted within the pressurized Spacelab laboratory module situated in the orbiter’s payload bay. The life science experiments investigated changes in plants, animals and humans under spaceflight conditions. The materials science experiments examined protein crystallization, fluid dynamics and high-temperature solidification of multi-phase materials in microgravity.

In August 1998, Bob was assigned by the Canadian Space Agency to the Johnson Space Center to pursue mission specialist training. This advanced astronaut training program involves instruction on both shuttle and space station systems. Within the NASA Astronaut Office, Bob currently serves as a CAPCOM (spacecraft communicator) for the international space station program. He also assists with operational issues of the station’s Thermal Control System. In Canada, Bob works with various organizations to develop space-based teaching resources for grade-school educators.

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