Born: August 17, 1953 in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Birthplace and date: Born August 17, 1953, New
Westminster, British Columbia.
Education: Bob attended primary and secondary schools in
British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba. He 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.
Professional Societies: College of Family Physicians of
Canada, College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, College of
Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, British Columbia Medical Association,
Ontario Medical Association, Canadian Medical Association, Aerospace Medical
Association, Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute, Association of
Professional Engineers of Ontario.
Special Honours: Gold Medal, Association of Professional
Engineers, Geologists, and Geophysicists of Alberta, 1976. Distinguished
Alumni Award, University of Calgary, 1985. NASA Space Flight Medal, 1996
and 2009. Honorary Member, College of Physicians and Surgeons of British
Columbia, 1997. Gold Medal, Professional Engineers of Ontario, 1997.
Neil J. Armstrong Award, Aero Space Museum of Calgary, 2001. Alouette
Award – The Tomatosphere Team, Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute,
2007. Honorary Doctorates from the University of Calgary, 2009; the
University of New Brunswick, 2010; Simon Fraser University, 2011; and Ryerson
University, 2012. International Cooperation in Cosmonautics Medal, Russian
Federal Space Agency, 2009. Yuri Gagarin Medal, Federation of Cosmonautics
of Russia, 2009. NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, 2009. Paul
Harris Fellow, The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, 2010. Outer
Space Exploration Medal of Merit, President of the Russian Federation,
2011. Sandford Fleming Medal, Council of the Royal Canadian Institute for
the Advancement of Science, 2012. Order of British Columbia, 2012.
In honour: Robert Thirsk High School, Calgary, 2012.
Experience: Bob 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.
Bob 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.
Bob is a strong promoter of a Canadian economy based upon
exploration and innovation. He encourages young Canadians to build their dreams
upon a solid educational foundation and advanced skills. He works with
educational specialists in Canada to develop space-related curriculum for grade
school students. Initiatives such as Space for Species, Tomatosphere and
From Blue To Red have allowed millions of young Canadians to experience the
thrill of scientific discovery.
Bob also holds an Adjunct Faculty position at
International Space University. He co-leads a research team of ISU alumni
investigating the effect of spaceflight on neuroperception.
In 1998, Bob 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
International Space Station (ISS) systems, EVA (spacewalking), robotic
operations, and Russian language. Within the NASA Astronaut Office, Bob served
as a CapCom (capsule communicator) for the International Space Station
In 2004, Bob 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
astronaut Roberto Vittori for the Soyuz 10S taxi mission to the ISS in April
2005. During this 10-day mission, Bob worked as Eurocom (European CapCom) at
ESA's Columbus Control Centre in Germany. In February 2008, Bob again performed
Eurocom duties from Germany in support of ISS Expedition 16 crew activities.
Spaceflight Experience: In June and July 1996, Bob 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
In 2009 Bob became the first Canadian astronaut to fly a
long duration expedition aboard the International Space Station. He and two
crewmates launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 27 May aboard a
Russian Soyuz spacecraft. When their Soyuz vehicle docked with the
nearly-complete Station two days later, the ISS became home for the first time
to a permanent crew of six. As members of the ISS Expedition 20/21 crew, Bob and
his five international crewmates performed an unprecedented amount of
multidisciplinary research, complex robotic operations, and maintenance and
repair work of Station systems and payloads. Following the undocking of his
Soyuz spacecraft from the Station and landing back in Kazakhstan on December
1st, Bob Thirsk had lived and worked in space for another 188 days during this
second voyage to space.
Dr. Thirsk resigned as astronaut and left the Canadian
Space Agency in 2012 to join the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in
Ottawa. As Vice-President of Public, Government and Institute Affairs, Bob
oversees the thirteen institutes dedicated to specific health care issues such
as aging and cancer research.