U of C alumnus passes 100 days in space researching weightlessness’ affect on humans

By Geoff MacIntosh

Many students daydream about spending a term abroad during their university career: living for three months in another country and experiencing their culture.

University of Calgary graduate Robert Thirsk has taken studying abroad to a whole new stratosphere, having spent over 100 days in space.

By the time he’s finished, Thirsk will have spent six-months there — a Canadian record. That works out to about two terms at the U of C.

While on board the International Space Station Thirsk has been busy, not just with mission-related tasks, but conducting interviews, writing newspaper articles and even taking photographs of forest fires in British Columbia. Thirsk has made a habit of communicating during his journey, becoming the first astronaut to write and publish stories in a newspaper while in space — two Calgary Sun columns during a 17-day 1996 mission.

The objectives of this mission cover many different areas, but Thirsk’s extended stay in a weightless environment makes its long-term effects on humans an important area of research.

“In weightlessness, there is a headward shift of body fluids that result[s] in a slight rounding of my face and thinning of my legs,” writes Thirsk. “My hair rises up off my head and my height has increased by four centimeters.”

Thirsk will return Nov. 23.


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