This Dec. 2, 2016 image taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover shows rocky ground on the lower flank of Mount Sharp, a mountain on Mars. Curiosity landed on the red planet in 2012 and uncovered geologic evidence of an ancient environment that could have supported primitive life early in the red planet’s history. (NASA via AP)

Space agency picks ex-astronaut to figure out how to get people to Mars in one piece

Of Canada’s 10 retired astronauts, Dave Williams is one of only three who practised medicine

The Canadian Space Agency says it wants to hire ex-astronaut Dave Williams to help figure out how to get humans to Mars and back in one piece.

But if you’re also a medical doctor who’s been to space and you think you can do a better job, please let the agency know.

Williams is a doctor with experience on both the shuttle and International Space Station. The space agency posted plans Wednesday saying he will help them connect with medical experts and develop health-care solutions for future astronauts.

“The CSA is hoping to be able to … leverage the expertise that we have in space medicine to create the next generation of on-board care capabilities for deep space exploration,” Williams told The Canadian Press.

Longer space voyages, such as the years it would take to travel to Mars and perhaps back, mean astronauts will need to take care of their own health concerns, and that’s an area where Canada thinks it can contribute to a global effort to travel to another planet.

With an eye to sending humans to the red planet within two decades, the space agency says it needs the expertise and direct experience of someone like Williams.

It issued an “advance contract award notice,” essentially an open call for anyone who thinks they can better meet the agency’s needs to speak up.

READ MORE:

Of Canada’s 10 retired astronauts, Williams is one of only three who practised medicine. He holds the Canadian record for time spent on spacewalks: almost 18 hours over three sorties. He’s also spent 28 days in space over two missions and previously led NASA’s space and life-sciences directorate.

Williams will be working alongside Thirsk, who, with almost 205 days, holds the Canadian record for time spent in space. The space agency hired Thirsk through a similar process earlier this year.

(The third astronaut-physician is Roberta Bondar, who flew on a Space Shuttle mission in 1992.)

The job involves engaging with Canadian scientists and health experts as well as selling the public on the benefits of investing in space-health science, such as developing technology to administer health care without a doctor physically present, something Williams says could be used in remote northern Canadian communities.

He said space health care is a “tremendous opportunity” for Canada.

“We could not have built the International Space Station without the Canadarm and the Canadian involvement,” he said.

“The future, of course, is beyond Earth orbit and it’s exciting being able to identify major roles that Canada can play in those missions back to the moon and ultimately on to Mars.”

Thirsk and Williams were members of a 2017 expert group on the potential roles for Canadian health care in deep space flight.

Stephen Cook, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Have you seen the comet? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance

Rare spectacle will be visible throughout July

‘Resistance’ from Interior Health puts races in Penticton on hold

It’s unknown if races planned for this weekend at the Penticton Speedway will take place

Oliver town hall reopens to public as COVID-19 test comes back negative

Oliver Town Hall was closed briefly as a staff member showed multiple COVID-19 symptoms

RCMP to investigate hate-motivated vandalism in Summerland

Swastikas and other graffiti spray painted on house and at bandshell

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

NDP wants Lower Mainland MLA removed from BC Liberal caucus for alleged homophobia

BC Liberal leader, some MLAs apologize for Christian magazine ads but Laurie Throness doubles down

B.C. health officials pleased with likely extension of Canada-U.S. border closure

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the situation is ‘very serious in the United States’

Shuswap residents see aircraft dropping fire retardant in direction of Falkland

Wildfire BC says no fire, crews in two air tankers and a bird dog were just practising

Expansion project to nearly double the size of Okanagan school

“With 10 new classrooms on the way, students are one step closer to saying goodbye to portables”

Lifesaving Society urges caution after two drownings in Central Okanagan

The warning comes after a drowning incident on July 9

Children suffer swollen eyes, burns while playing at Lower Mainland spray park

Mission RCMP are investigating incident that injured several children

Fundraiser kick-started for Vernon woman battling tongue cancer

Woman’s four-year-old twins are the driving force behind her fight

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Most Read