Robert Thirsk is a Canadian engineer and physician, and a Canadian Space Agency astronaut.
Robert Thirsk was born on August 17, 1953 in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. He received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Calgary, a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a Doctorate of Medicine from McGill University, and a Master of Business Administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Robert was selected in 1983 to the Canadian astronaut corps and began training in 1984. He has been involved in various Canadian Space Agency (CSA) projects including parabolic flight campaigns, cardiovascular research and mission simulations.
In 1996, Robert Thirsk flew as a payload specialist aboard space shuttle mission STS-78, the Life and Microgravity Spacelab 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.
In 2004, he trained at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre near Moscow and became certified as a flight engineer for the Soyuz spacecraft. For many years in the mid-2000s, Robert served as Capcom at the Mission Control Center in Houston and as Eurocom at the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany in support of International Space Station (ISS) crew activities.
In 2009, Robert Thirsk became the first Canadian to fly on a long-duration expedition. Roman Romanenko of Russia, Frank De Winne of Belgium and Robert launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS. Following docking with the Station, Robert and his ISS Expedition 20 and 21 crewmates performed an unprecedented amount of multidisciplinary research, robotic operations, maintenance and repair work of Station systems and payloads.
Robert Thirsk resigned as astronaut from the CSA in 2012 to join the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in Ottawa. In 2014, he retired from the federal government and went on to serve as Chancellor of the University of Calgary from 2014 to 2018. Robert remains engaged in Canadian space initiatives and public outreach. He served as chairs of two high-level task forces for the CSA: the Expert Group (2017−2018) and the Advisory Council (2019−2021) on Deep Space Healthcare. He is a proud member of the Orders of Canada and of British Columbia.