Robert Thirsk


Born August 17, 1953, New Westminster, British Columbia.


Attended primary and secondary schools in British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba. Received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Calgary in 1976, a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1978, a Doctorate of Medicine from McGill University in 1982, and a Master of Business Administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1998.


Dr. Thirsk was in the family medicine residency program at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Montréal when he was selected in December 1983 for the Canadian Astronaut Program. He began astronaut training in February 1984 and served as backup payload specialist to Marc Garneau for the October 1984 space shuttle mission STS-41G.

Dr. Thirsk has been involved in various Canadian Space Agency projects including parabolic flight campaigns and mission planning. He served as crew commander for two space mission simulations: the seven-day CAPSULS mission in 1994, at Defence Research and Development Canada in Toronto, and the 11-day NEEMO 7 undersea mission in 2004 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. He works with educational specialists in Canada to develop space-related curriculum for grade school students. Initiatives such as Canolab, Space for Species, and Tomatosphere have allowed thousands of young Canadians to experience the thrill of scientific discovery.

In June and July 1996, Dr. Thirsk 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 1998, Dr. Thirsk was assigned by the Canadian Space Agency to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to pursue mission specialist training. This training program involved advanced instruction on both shuttle and space station systems, EVA (spacewalking), robotic operations, and Russian language. Within the NASA Astronaut Office, Dr. Thirsk serves as a Capcom (capsule communicator) for the International Space Station (ISS) program. Capcoms participate in actual and simulated space missions as a communication link between the ground team at Mission Control and the astronauts in orbit. Capcoms speak directly with the space station crew, and assist with technical planning for the mission and last-minute troubleshooting.

In 2004, Dr. Thirsk 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 April 2005. During the 10-day mission, Dr. Thirsk worked as Crew Interface Coordinator (i.e. European Capcom) at the Columbus Control Centre in Germany.

Dr. Thirsk has now returned to the Johnson Space Center in Houston and has begun ISS Expedition crew training. He is currently assigned to the Expedition-19 crew and scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station in May 2009 aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.



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