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Edward Tabarah – Head Canadian Astronaut Corps

Return to Earth of David Saint-Jacques and his crewmates
  • Quote: Tell yourself it's a piece of cake.
  • Education: Bachelor in theoretical physics and applied mathematics, master in particle physics, master in robotics, Ph.D. in robotics
  • Job title: Head Canadian Astronaut Corps
  • Employer: Canadian Space Agency (CSA)
  • Projects at the CSA: Astronaut recruiter and supervisor. Planning, coordination and negotiations related to astronaut training. Mission manager.

What is unique about your job?
The job itself is unique: there's no other job like it in Canada! Being in charge of the astronaut corps is a demanding task. When astronauts launch aboard the Soyuz, there are only two Canadians with them in quarantine: the flight surgeon (Raffi Kuyumjian) and me. We were also present during Soyuz landing to support David Saint-Jacques when he returned to Earth and to help him recuperate.

What tasks do you perform during a work day?
I represent Canada on international committees and working groups, like the Multilateral Crew Operations Panel, which decides who will go to space and takes care of problems related to space flights or crew. I am also part of a working group that negotiates and coordinates training for astronauts who have been assigned to a mission on the International Space Station.

Because our astronauts will one day travel aboard the new commercial spacecraft, I participate in meetings with international partners where we make sure that these new spacecraft are safe.

Which professional accomplishment are you the most proud of?
There are quite a few! I'm very, very proud of the last recruitment campaign. We made every effort to make sure that the two best astronauts were selected and that the process was fair and transparent. We are the envy of our partners, thanks to our seamless selection process and our top-notch astronauts. I am also proud of the support that we give our astronauts before, during and after their long-duration missions.

Who or what helped you the most throughout your career?
Patience! (laughs) And also the support of my superiors, like the Director General and the President. We even have the support of the Minister, given the high visibility of our work, and that helped us a lot for the recruitment and for David Saint-Jacques' mission. What also comes to mind is my colleagues in the Astronauts, Life Sciences and Space Medicine Directorate. We all help one another: I am really lucky to work with them. We act as a team, and everyone here likes what they do. As for school, it wasn't the strictest teachers who helped me the most—it was the ones who cared the most.

What advice would you offer to children and young adults?
Don't give up! Especially right before exams. I remember that I always second-guessed myself: "What am I doing? I'm going to fail! It's too hard for me. Why am I doing this?" I was discouraged, but right after the exams, I realized that it wasn't so bad and that I was ready for the next step. As you rise through the levels, from elementary school to high school and beyond, it gets more and more demanding, but you're more and more ready. You can handle it! Do not get discouraged. Turn to your mentors for assistance. Young people should not be afraid of seeking advice. Asking for help is not a sign of failure—it's quite the opposite!

How do or did you reconcile work commitments and your family life?
You can't be successful at work if you're neglecting your family. It's important to keep that in mind and make time for both.

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