All Posts Tagged With: "astronaut"
Julie Payette on why she chose engineering over music
The 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings asked some of Canada’s most successful writers, politicians and scientists what they wish they’d known in university. Their answers are perfect additions to our First Year Survivor blog. Here’s advice from Julie Payette, Canadian Astronaut and Quebec’s Scientific Representative to the U.S.
I did my first degree at McGill University. I started in 1982. At the time, I was very clear I was going to become an engineer. Actually, I did have a bit of hesitation. I wanted to also study music. But it dawned on me that even though I loved music, I was not good enough to make a decent living at it, whereas I would become a fine engineer and could still do music. So I ended up choosing electrical engineering, which was perfect for me.
Robert Thirsk accepts honorary doctorate of laws from U Calgary
Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk has received an honour that’s out of this world.
Connected by video link as he floated 400 kilometres above the Earth aboard the International Space Station, Thirsk accepted an honorary doctorate of laws degree from the University of Calgary.
He even donned a crimson and yellow convocation cape, but had to take it off as it repeatedly floated up in front of his face.
The astronaut answered questions from children after the degree presentation, pulling out props such as water bottles and garbage cans to explain his day-to-day life.
Thirsk, who is the first Canadian to spend six months in space, earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Calgary in 1976.
University president Harvey Weingarten says it’s a privilege to honour Thirsk while he’s at the pinnacle of his career and able to inspire so many students.
- The Canadian Press
Thirsk says it would be hard to send his honorary degree through space
Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk is getting an honorary degree from the University of Calgary for his out-of-this-world achievements, but he won’t be able to sport a cap and gown.
Thirsk’s current six-month stint in space means the July 8 ceremony will be beamed aboard the International Space Station via a video link.
Astronauts train for decades for their shot in space, and it seemed only fitting to recognize Thirsk while he’s actually in orbit, University president Harvey Weingarten said Tuesday.
“We’re acknowledging the contribution this fellow has made to space exploration. We’re acknowledging a prominent Canadian we can all take pride in,” he said.
“It just seemed like a natural and neat thing to do, to recognize him while he’s actually doing his work in space.”
Thirsk, a native of New Westminster, B.C, earned his first degree at the University of Calgary in mechanical engineering. He followed that with two master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a medical degree from McGill.
The 55-year-old astronaut arrived at the station May 29 on board a Russian Soyuz spacecraft along with a Russian and a Belgian, bringing the station up to a full-time crew of six.
He could soon be joined by a familiar face – Canadian Julie Payette and six other astronauts are scheduled to blast off Wednesday for a quick rendezvous with the station.
It will be the first time Canada has had two astronauts on board the space station at the same time, and will bring the number of people simultaneously to a record 13.
Thirsk is laying the groundwork for the deployment of Canadian robots on other planets and figuring out how to help people adapt to extreme environments.
If high school had the same pace, you’d finish grade 12 in two weeks
My secret fear before I went to university was that I wouldn’t make the cut. That I wouldn’t be able to handle the academic overload of university. I knew first year wouldn’t be like the average high-school grade transition, where the material is a little more difficult, but doable. University is a total revamp of what you’re used to in high school.
The rules change.
Everything you learned in high school physics, biology ― everything ― is condensed into a perfect little packet of 12 weeks. Like astronaut food.
If high school had the pace of university, where you have five courses instead of four, not to mention some labs and tutorials, you’d finish grade 12 in about two weeks. I can’t believe I didn’t have perfect 100′s in all my courses. What was I doing with all that time?
I felt a little out of control during my first semester of university, that at any moment my fine balance of keeping up with the readings and completing assignments could crumple.
Then it happened. I fell behind.
My worst fear had been realized. I wasn’t keeping up. And it made me feel stupid. It seemed impossible that I would ever be able to juggle everything. How could I possibly be able to read four chapters of my chemistry and biology textbooks, while simultaneously completing my physics assignment and political science essay, all due next class?
Then I realized my problem. University isn’t 10 times harder than high school. It’s 10 times faster. It’s the pace that’s a killer in university.
I wasn’t being stupid. I was being inefficient. I needed a plan.
Using study habits from high school to prepare for tests and quizzes wasn’t working. Even how I approached the readings was all wrong.
I learned how to prioritize, university style. I started the readings right away, instead of procrastinating about it. I learned how to really focus. In high school, you can often get away with studying at the last minute and still pull off a pretty good mark. It doesn’t work that way in university. It’s not always how smart you are in university that determines your marks, it’s how disciplined you are.
My second semester was much better. You really do adapt to the pace and learn how to get so much more done than you ever did with that sloth pace back in high school.
Now the pace of university doesn’t scare me. I prefer it.
- photo courtesy of michellekopczyk
I want to be a doctor. In space.
It’s a universal fact: every kid’s dream in kindergarten is to become an astronaut. Well, ignoring the occasional firefighter, cowboy, and dentist wannabes. Okay, nobody ever really wants to be a dentist. They just wake up in dental school one day. There are also kids like my younger brother David who, in grade one, announced that when he grew up, he just wanted to sit in the back of taxis and talk to people. In other words, get an arts degree.
But after checking out the Canadian Space Agency’s website, I realize that my four-year-old self had it totally wrong. There’s a job out there that’s actually higher on the cool-o-meter than astronaut. It’s a combination more ingenious than chocolate and peanut butter.
It’s an astronaut. With an MD.
The idea of orbiting thousands of kilometers above the Earth is awesome. And messing around with bacterial life forms is even more cool (and is just begging for a broken test tube that leads to a deadly super virus). But the two of them? Combined? It means only one thing: messing around with bacterial life forms in zero gravity.
Someone I know recently applied to the Canadian Space Agency’s national astronaut recruitment campaign, which will replace the two retiring Canadian astronauts. First I had to get over the fact that Canada has a space program. And unlike Canadian Idol, it isn’t just the annoying younger brother of the American version. We actually send people into space. For sleep-overs at the Space Station.
It was fascinating to watch someone go through the application process. And it was even more interesting to learn some of the cool little details about living in outer space. Like how astronauts have to choose what foods they’re going to eat in space several months before the actual launch. And since they’re surrounded by microgravity, dry foods could contaminate the environment. Meaning, astronauts on the space station have an even bigger threat than asteroids, black holes and zombie aliens: a loaf of bread. Extra crumbly.
When an astronaut sneezes? There’s an emergency evacuation and contamination clean-up crew, and the person who sneezed has to suffer through dirty looks for the rest of the mission.
Then there’s the fact that while astronauts are orbiting the earth, they experience 16 sunsets every 24 hours. Plus the “NASA tradition” of having wake-up calls during shuttle missions. A song is broadcasted into the cabin every morning, selected in advance by each astronaut. So there’s an even more efficient way to make every other astronaut hate your guts than just sneezing all over the dashboard.
As in, choosing my favourite song as a wake-up call.