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Career Profile

Robert Thirsk

Former CSA Astronaut; Currently Chancellor
University of Calgary
Robert Thirsk | Ancien astronaute de l’Agence spatiale canadienne
Robert Thirsk | Ancien astronaute de l’Agence spatiale canadienne
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Location Now
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Robert Thisk is a Former CSA Astronaut; Currently Chancellor of the University of Calgary.

About me

I was born/grew up in: I was born in New Westminster, BC and have lived in several towns in western Canada.

I now live in: Ottawa, ON

I completed my training/education at: University of Calgary, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McGill University

I trained for and flew on two space missions: STS-78 space shuttle mission in 1996 and ISS Expedition 20/21 in 2009

What I do at work

I have flown on two space missions as a member of the Canadian Space Agency’s astronaut corps. I first flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1996 with six international crewmates as part of the Life and Microgravity Spacelab Mission. This 17-day mission was devoted to the study of life and materials sciences.

In 2009 I launched aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). As members of the ISS Expedition 20/21 crew, my five crewmates and I performed multidisciplinary research which will bring benefit to world citizens and enable future space exploration. During the 188-day expedition, my crew also performed robotic operations and maintenance of Station systems and payloads.

My career path is

I received degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Calgary and from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I also hold a Doctorate of Medicine from McGill University, and a Master of Business Administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management. This educational path may seem at first to be convoluted. However, it was logically designed to pursue personal goals at each moment of my life.

I am motivated by

I wish to encourage students in their studies and to inspire all Canadians to follow their dreams. I promote a Canadian society based upon exploration, innovation and lifelong learning.

How I affect peoples’ lives

The research work that I have performed in space will help future astronauts explore further and longer into our solar system. This same research also returns benefits to Earth society, especially to health care providers and patients.

Outside of work I

  • Wilderness camping
  • Fitness training
  • Playing the piano
  • Driving my convertible sports car

My advice to others

  • Put an educational foundation under your career dreams
  • Stay out of your comfort zone
When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • History
  • Math
  • Physical Education/Health
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Music
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Always wanted to be outside
  • Played on a sports team
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Was motivated by success
  • Liked reading
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
  • Learned best by doing

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