Dr. Robert (Bob) Thirsk was born and raised in western Canada. He received degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Calgary and from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Bob also holds a Doctorate of Medicine from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Bob was selected as a member of the Canadian Space Agency’s astronaut corps in 1983.  During a 28-year career, Bob received training on space shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) systems and developed skills in spacewalking, robotic operations and Russian language.  He served as crew commander for two space mission simulations: the seven-day CAPSULS mission in 1994, and the 11-day NEEMO 7 undersea mission in 2004.  He served as backup astronaut on two space missions – a 1984 space shuttle mission and a 2005 Soyuz mission to the ISS.

In 1996 Bob flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia 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 Bob launched aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station. As members of the ISS Expedition 20/21 crew, Bob and his crewmates performed cutting-edge interdisciplinary research from around the world, robotic operations, and maintenance and repair work of Station systems and experiments. Upon return to Earth, Bob had lived and worked in space for another 188 days.

Bob is a strong promoter of a national economy based upon exploration and innovation. He takes every opportunity to encourage youth to work outside of their comfort zones, to participate in collaborative team-oriented ventures, and to pursue audacious dreams. He recommends that these dreams be built upon a solid foundation of advanced skills and lifelong learning.

Bob proudly served as Chancellor of the University of Calgary from 2014-18. He is a member of the Order of British Columbia and an Officer of the Order of Canada. Robert Thirsk High School in Calgary is named in his honour. He has received several honorary degrees, including a Doctor of Laws from his home institution The University of Calgary. The degree was conferred while he was in orbit aboard the International Space Station!



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  1. Dr. Thirsk, My husband and I had the pleasure of attending your lectures on the QM2, Apr 28 to May 5. We found your talks to be informative, you personally to be modest, yet very, very engaging. We like to think that we came away with very useful information, a better understanding of the value of your field of work, and all of that occurred painlessly. Thank you very much!

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