Successful Launch: Canadian Astronaut Bob Thirsk Lifts Off for Six Months on International Space Station

Press Release From: Canadian Space Agency
Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

image Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Robert (Bob) Thirsk launched successfully from Baďkonur, Kazakhstan, aboard Soyuz TMA-15 today at 6:34 a.m. EDT, marking the start of Canada's first long-duration mission in space.

"Through the years, Canadian astronauts have acquired an international reputation, taking part in 13 space missions and numerous visits to the International Space Station" said the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency. "It is hard-working, innovative and productive Canadians like these that drive our economy and keeps Canada in its place as a space-faring nation."

Thirsk will stay onboard the International Space Station (ISS) for six months, breaking Canada's—and his own—mission-length record of 17 days. A physician and mechanical engineer, Thirsk is the mission's Crew Medical Officer, robotics specialist, and specialist for Kibo, the Japanese experimental facility.

During this mission, the crew of Expedition 20/21 will devote hours to scientific research making full use of the station's state-of-the-art laboratory facilities. Thirsk will conduct Canadian-led experiments that could lead to results for people who experience balance and movement control disorders, elderly people suffering from dizziness and fainting spells, or those afflicted with heart disease caused by a sedentary lifestyle.

"This is an incredible milestone for the Canadian Space Program," said Steve MacLean, President of the CSA and a former Canadian astronaut. "Canada has a very strong track record when it comes to space science and space technology. The science performed will benefit all Canadians."

Soyuz TMA-15 is scheduled to dock with the ISS on May 29th at 8:36 a.m. EDT and the historic hatch opening will take place at 9:45 a.m. EDT inaugurating the long awaited-presence of a six-person crew on the station and marking the moment when all five partner agencies will be represented by crew members on the orbiting laboratory.

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