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Ex-astronaut Thirsk will help determine the place of Canada in a mission to Mars



Canadian press

Published on Friday, December 28, 2018 12:27 EST

Updated Friday, December 28, 2018 14:37 EST

OTTAWA. The Canadian Space Agency says it wants to hire former astronaut Robert Thirsk to figure out how to bring his medical experience to a man’s mission to Mars.

Thirsk is a doctor who has a Canadian record for space time, thanks to an extended mission to the International Space Station in 2009. These are two of the qualifications that the space agency considers necessary for the contract signed on Friday for $ 94,500, stating that Thirsk is the only person on Earth who meets all the requirements.

“Thus, Dr. Thirsk is uniquely positioned to provide the CSA with a crew member’s and a health worker’s point of view regarding health and performance requirements during long flights, as well as the associated opportunities to meet these requirements,” the agency said in a public post Friday .

He issued a “preliminary contract award notice”, in fact, an open call for anyone who thinks he can meet the agency’s needs better than Thirsk to speak out.

Since these needs are identified in the publication, no one could.

The former astronaut Robert Bondar is a doctor, but she spent eight days in space, almost 205 people in Thirsk. Dave Williams is a doctor who led NASA's space and life sciences department and worked in the health and safety of space crews, but his two missions have been added for up to 28 days in space.

Chris Hadfield, probably the most famous astronaut of Canada, spent 166 days in space on two shuttle flights and a long stay on the International Space Station – but he is a pilot, not a doctor.

Another noteworthy Canadian cosmonaut, Julie Payette, will hold the position of governor-general for the next two years, while Marc Garnot, now the federal minister of transport, hopes to be reelected to the House of Commons next fall.

Even if someone wanted to get a job, neither one nor the other has exact qualifications, followed by the agency.

The work includes the next two years to determine what Canadian scientists and health experts can do to help astronauts outside of low-Earth orbit and sell the benefits of investing in space health science to the public.

Thirsk will work with “Canadian communities in biomedicine, health care, and health care so that space health solutions can improve the provision of remote medical care on Earth, in addition to other benefits of ground-based health care,” the publication says.

Thirsk will also work with NASA to "provide an important and prominent role in the health and productivity of astronauts."

The first year of the contract costs 45,000 dollars. The second optional year costs 49,500 dollars.

Thirsk has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The United States is considering a mission to Mars, probably in the early 2030s, when the two planets are closest. A NASA administrator recently visited Ottawa to ask Canadian assistance for preliminary steps, including a platform into the moon's orbit to carry out a human mission there.

Long space missions destroy astronauts' muscles and bones, subject them to hard radiation, and can even damage their senses. An astronaut who is seriously ill or injured in earth orbit can be sent home pretty quickly; one who is halfway to Mars cannot.

A journey to Mars will take at least six months anyway, long enough for serious problems to arise – especially if the astronauts going on a trip want to arrive ready for physical work on the surface.

Thirsk led the expert committee of the agency, which recommended working to minimize these dangers, how Canada helps humanity explore space.

He also called on the federal government to “restore adequate funding” of the Canadian space program, “to expand our national capabilities and rally our citizens”, in a submission this autumn to the House of Commerce Finance Committee.

The final report of the committee recommended that the federal government undertakes to allocate in the budget for 2019 "substantial permanent investments" in the space agency and "contribute to space exploration and science."


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