Sunday, 07 July 2024 08:25

Edmonton Doctor set to be first Canadian woman to become a commercial astronaut

astronauta comercial astronauta comercial fot: pixabay

In a landmark for Canadian space travel, Edmonton's Dr. Shawna Pandya is poised to become the first Canadian woman to embark on a commercial space flight. Dr. Pandya's upcoming mission not only represents a personal achievement but also marks a significant milestone in the commercialization of space travel.

Childhood dream turns reality

Dr. Shawna Pandya's journey to becoming an astronaut began in her childhood, inspired by Canada's first female astronaut, Dr. Roberta Bondar. Watching Bondar's space missions in the '90s, Pandya was motivated by the possibility that Canadian women could also reach the stars. This early inspiration set her on a path towards achieving this dream. After pursuing an education in neuroscience and earning an MD from the University of Alberta, she joined the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS) as a bioastronautics researcher, further paving her way towards space.

Mission overview and training

Dr. Pandya's first mission to space, designated IIAS - 02, is a collaborative effort between IIAS and Virgin Galactic, founded by Richard Branson. This mission, expected to launch in the coming years, will focus on suborbital flight and include up to 20 minutes at an altitude of approximately 100 kilometers. This mission aims to study the upper atmosphere and provide a longer duration of microgravity for scientific research.

Training for such a mission is rigorous and intense. Dr. Pandya has undergone extensive preparation, including participation in 10 parabolic research flights, simulating microgravity through what is colloquially known as the 'vomit comet.' Her research has significantly contributed to understanding physiological changes in space, notably studying blood sugar levels during flight - a study that helps bridge space science with medical insights on Earth.

Impact and future aspirations

The IIAS - 02 mission is not only a technical achievement but also an effort to enhance international cooperation and accessibility in space science. Executive Director Jason Reimuller of IIAS highlighted the mission's commitment to advocating science and reducing barriers to participating in these high - caliber research projects. The diverse crew represents an inspiring model for future spaceflights, aiming to mirror the multicultural and cooperative spirit seen in ground - based research teams.

Dr. Pandya hopes that her contributions will extend beyond space, enriching medical science with deeper insights into how physiological changes in space can inform treatments and understanding of conditions like diabetes on Earth. She expresses profound honor in representing Canada and pioneering a path for women in the commercial space sector.

As Dr. Shawna Pandya prepares for her historic flight, her story embodies the convergence of childhood aspirations with professional and scientific achievements. Her role in this mission is not only a personal triumph but also a beacon for aspiring astronauts, especially women and Canadians, showing that the stars are within reach if one dares to dream and persevere.

Source: CBC.CA



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