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Biography of Dr. Robert (Bob) Thirsk

Bob Thirsk

Birthdate and birthplace: , New Westminster, British Columbia.

Education: Bob attended primary and secondary schools in British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba. He received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Calgary in , a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in , a Doctorate of Medicine from McGill University in , and a Master of Business Administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management in .

Professional societies: College of Family Physicians of Canada, College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Doctors of British Columbia, Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute, Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario, Royal Canadian Institute for Science, Radio Amateurs of Canada, International Space University (ISU) (adjunct faculty).

Special honours: Gold Medal, Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta, . Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Calgary, . NASA Space Flight Medal, and . Honorary Member, College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, . Gold Medal, Professional Engineers of Ontario, . Neil J. Armstrong Award, Aero Space Museum of Calgary, . Alouette Award – The Tomatosphere Team, Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute, . Honorary Doctorates from the University of Calgary, ; the University of New Brunswick, ; Simon Fraser University, ; Ryerson University, ; and Vancouver Island University, . International Cooperation in Cosmonautics Medal, Russian Federal Space Agency, . Yuri Gagarin Medal, Federation of Cosmonautics of Russia, . NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, . Paul Harris Fellow, The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, . Fellow, Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute, . Outer Space Exploration Medal of Merit, President of the Russian Federation, . Sandford Fleming Medal, Council of the Royal Canadian Institute for the Advancement of Science, . Order of British Columbia, . In honour: Robert Thirsk High School, Calgary, . Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, . Officer of the Order of Canada, . Gold Medal and Honorary Fellow, Royal Canadian Geographical Society, . Ronald G. Calhoun Science Ambassador Award, Partners in Research, . In honour: Thirsk Street, University District, Calgary, . Legacy Award, Calgary Board of Education, . Alumnus of Distinction, Lord Beaverbrook High School, Calgary, .

Experience: Bob was selected in for the Canadian astronaut corps. He began astronaut training in and served as backup payload specialist to Marc Garneau for the Space Shuttle Mission STS-41G.

Bob has been involved in various Canadian Space Agency (CSA) projects, including parabolic flight campaigns and mission planning. He served as crew commander for two space mission simulations: the seven-day CAPSULS mission in , at Defence Research and Development Canada in Toronto; and the 11-day NEEMO 7 undersea mission in at the National Undersea Research Center in Key Largo, Florida. He led an international research team investigating the effect of weightlessness on the heart and blood vessels.

Bob is a strong promoter of a Canadian economy based upon exploration and innovation. He encourages young Canadians to build their dreams upon a solid educational foundation and advanced skills. He works with educational specialists in Canada to develop space-related curriculum for grade school students. Initiatives such as Space for Species, Tomatosphere and From Blue To Red have allowed millions of young Canadians to experience the thrill of scientific discovery.

Bob also holds an adjunct faculty position at the ISU. He co-leads a research team of ISU alumni investigating the effect of space flight on neuroperception.

In , Bob was assigned by the CSA to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to pursue mission specialist training. This training program involved advanced instruction on both Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) systems, EVA (spacewalking), robotic operations, and Russian language. Within the NASA Astronaut Office, Bob served as a capcom (capsule communicator) for the ISS program.

In , Bob trained at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre near Moscow and became certified as a flight engineer for the Soyuz spacecraft. He served as backup flight engineer to European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Roberto Vittori for the Soyuz 10S taxi mission to the ISS in . During this 10-day mission, Bob worked as Eurocom (European capcom) at ESA's Columbus Control Centre in Germany. In , Bob again performed Eurocom duties from Germany in support of ISS Expedition 16 crew activities.

Space flight experience: In and , Bob flew as a payload specialist aboard Space Shuttle Mission STS-78, the Life and Microgravity Spacelab (LMS) mission. During this 17-day flight aboard Columbia, he and his six crewmates performed 43 international experiments devoted to the study of life and materials sciences. The life science experiments investigated changes in plants, animals, and humans under space flight conditions. The materials science experiments examined protein crystallization, fluid physics and high-temperature solidification of multi-phase materials in a weightless environment.

In Bob became the first Canadian astronaut to go on a long-duration expedition aboard the ISS. He and two crewmates launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on May 27 aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. When their Soyuz vehicle docked with the nearly complete Station two days later, the ISS became home for the first time to a permanent crew of six. As members of the ISS Expedition 20/21 crew, Bob and his five international crewmates performed an unprecedented amount of multidisciplinary research, complex robotic operations, and maintenance and repair work of Station systems and payloads. Bob Thirsk lived and worked in space for 188 days during this second voyage to space, which ended when he landed back in Kazakhstan on December 1.

Dr. Thirsk resigned as astronaut and left the CSA in to join the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in Ottawa. As Vice-President of Public, Government and Institute Affairs, Bob oversaw the 13 institutes dedicated to specific health care issues such as aging and cancer research. In , Bob retired from the federal government. He served as Chancellor of the University of Calgary from to .

Bob served as chair of the CSA's Expert Group on the Potential Canadian Healthcare and Biomedical Roles for Deep Space Human Spaceflight in , and currently serves as director on several social purpose organizations.

Follow Bob on Twitter (@RobertThirsk)!

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