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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 people’s 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

Explore Career Profiles

  • Moustafa Eldeeb onsite at Seaspan Shipyard’s North Vancouver, BC facility.

    Mustafa Eldeeb

    Project Manager, Navy Programs

    I am responsible for ensuring the various project teams are performing well and following to the approved budget and schedule set for each project.
  • Julie Thrasher au travail dans la salle de commande

    Julie Thrasher

    Shift Manager (Nuclear Power)

    I’m responsible for the safe and effective operation of a four unit nuclear power plant.
  • Peter Visscher devant un tableau blanc

    Peter Visscher

    Robotic Vehicle Development, General Manager

    I work with my team to develop extreme robotic vehicles designed to operate off-road and off-planet.
  • Lisa Jones

    Lisa Jones

    Manager of Strategic Initiatives

    I lead initiatives to improve leadership as well as the overall effectiveness of the organization.
  • Kasia Carisse devant un panneau de commandes

    Kasia Carisse

    Control Room Supervisor (Nuclear Power)

    I supervise the main control room at Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.
  • Karissa Palinka headshot

    Karissa Palinka (she/her)

    Technical Engineer

    Karissa is working to reduce our carbon footprint through the use of Small Modular Reactors.
  • Alexander Sharif hiking in mountains.

    Alexander Sharif

    Structural Designer

    As principal engineer I work with a team of engineering and designers to carry out mega-sized projects.
  • Max Salman aux commandes d'un avion.

    Max Salman

    PH.D. Student / Affiliate Researcher

    I ask questions to things that don’t have answers yet.
  • Xiaoyi Bao

    Xiaoyi Bao

    Professor and Canada Research Chair

    Dr. Xiaoyi Bao is Canada Research Chair in Fibre Optics and Photonics.
  • Vivek Chauhan

    Vivek Chauhan

    Program Advisor, Renewable Generation

    Vivek is an electrical engineer who works for Ontario Power Generation.
  • Kris Poduska

    Kris Poduska (she/her)

    Physics Professor

    As a professor of physics, I train students how to use science to solve problems.
  • Dave Challoner plantant des arbres dans le cadre d'un projet communautaire.

    Dave Challoner

    Project Manager

    I guide and manage a diverse team of people as we carry out various projects.
  • Miriam Micael

    Miriam Micael

    Engineer, Project Management

    As a project manager at the Canadian Space Agency, Miriam makes sure projects get done on time and on budget.
  • Sombto Ibe

    Somto Ibe

    Engineer, Renewable Energy

    Somto Ibe is responsible for ensuring that wind turbines and solar panels operate safely.
  • Peter Grootelaar

    Peter Grootelaar

    Engineer, Kitimat Operations Superintendent

  • Alok

    Alok Shirolikar

    Specialist Engineering Project Management

  • Shannon Tymosko

    Shannon Tymosko

    Electrical Apprentice

    I am a second-year Electrical Apprentice with the IBEW Local 105
  • Fairy Sahay

    Fairy Sahay

    Civil Engineer (Green Economy Project)

    I work to protect, conserve and restore natural resources.
  • Karen Thomas au site de construction Hebron GBS site à Bull Arm, T.N.-L.

    Karen Thomas

    Structural Engineer (Module Integration Manager)

  • Chelsea Dyck

    Chelsea Dyck

    Journeyman Electrician