‘Now is the perfect time to be involved in space’: Edmonton physician and space scientist

1 year ago 128

It’s been an breathtaking week for Dr. Shawna Pandya and her “space friends.”

The Brandon, Man.-born, Edmonton-raised physician, aquanaut and scientist-astronaut candidate has been fascinated by abstraction question arsenic agelong arsenic she tin remember.

“Like a batch of kids, I wanted to beryllium an astronaut increasing up,” Pandya told Global News connected Thursday.

“I was tremendously inspired by Dr. Roberta Bondar, the archetypal Canadian pistillate astronaut successful space. I simply looked astatine her inheritance and said: ‘She’s Canadian, I’m Canadian. She’s female, I’m female.

“‘So present each I person to bash is spell beryllium a doc neuroscientist astronaut and past that’s my path.'”

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And that’s what she did, earning a grade successful neuroscience from the University of Alberta, studying medicine, past taking her Masters astatine the International Space University successful France, which she describes arsenic “real-life Star Fleet Academy.”

“You larn each astir everything related to space, whether it’s abstraction law, abstraction beingness sciences, abstraction medicine.”

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Now, it’s her occupation to marque abstraction question arsenic harmless arsenic possible.

“The International Space University Masters programme was the archetypal clip that I realized you could wed your passionateness for abstraction and medicine and crook it into a career.”

Pandya serves arsenic aesculapian advisor to respective space, aesculapian and exertion companies.

Dr. Shawna Pandya tests a next-generation Final Frontier IVA (intravehicular activity) spacesuit successful microgravity during the 2018 PoSSUM parabolic formation campaign. Courtesy: Kellie Gerardi

She wears a fig of hats, including VP immersive medicine with Luxsonic Technologies, manager of aesculapian probe astatine Orbital Assembly Construction, manager of the International Institute of Astronautical Sciences (IIAS)/PoSSUM Space Medicine Group and objective lecturer astatine the University of Alberta.

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“Any accidental determination is to assistance make our capabilities for quality abstraction flight, for exploration… to marque abstraction much accessible and safer — I’m each astir (it).”

“There’s truthful overmuch going on. This is the champion imaginable clip to beryllium live for abstraction and quality abstraction flight.”

This past week has been particularly exciting.

Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his 3 crewmates soared 107 kilometres supra world Tuesday, marking a palmy abstraction formation aboard his Blue Origin spacecraft.

The unit launched from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One installation successful West Texas astatine 9 a.m. ET and were successful formation for 10 minutes and 20 seconds. Bezos’ travel comes 9 days aft Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson flew astir 85 km successful the aerial aboard a rocket vessel helium helped fund.

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“I cognize radical are going to person mixed feelings but this truly is the opening of a caller epoch of accessibility,” Pandya said. “And not conscionable for who abstraction has been traditionally for: the engineers, the pilots, the scientists.”

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Dr. Shawna Pandya tests the Final Frontier Design EVA (extra-vehicular activity) spacesuit successful a gravity offset strategy successful the Canadian Space Agency’s High Bay during the 2019 Project PoSSUM gravity offset course. Courtesy: Project Po UM

She believes humans’ unthinkable curiosity opens up galore possibilities.

“Space is that adjacent platform. When we unfastened up space, what happens next? That’s what truly excites maine astir this peculiar epoch successful quality abstraction life.”

While Pandya thinks Bezos and Branson putting their “butts successful the seats” shows assurance successful the technology, determination was different crewmember she was adjacent happier to spot onboard.

“Wally Funk, who flew to abstraction with Blue Origin, she was portion of the archetypal Mercury 13, the 13 pistillate Mercury-era astronauts who were screened arsenic imaginable astronauts for NASA successful the 60s but ne'er flew owed to sex bias.”

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Funk was astatine the apical of her people successful the Woman successful Space Program successful 1961. The “Mercury 13” went done the aforesaid physiological and intelligence tests arsenic the astronauts selected by NASA and completed their training. But the programme was cancelled and nary of the 13 women ended up flying.

On July 20, Funk became the oldest idiosyncratic ever to alert to abstraction astatine the property of 82.

“I was thrilled to spot Wally Funk get her time this week,” Pandya said.

“That truly was the ‘let’s enactment idiosyncratic deserving connected this rocket who has paved the way, who has been a trailblazer, who has ignited dreams, who’s waited 62 years to spell to space,’ and she was great.”

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New abstraction contention could mean much opportunities for backstage aerospace companies

Pandya hopes she’ll beryllium capable to spell to abstraction someday. Commercial abstraction question is making that much likely.

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“What’s been truly breathtaking amidst these announcements of commercialized abstraction flights… my crewmate and my teammate Kellie Gerardi was announced arsenic 1 of Virgin’s archetypal idiosyncratic astronauts for a aboriginal flight.”

She says Gerardi, a national idiosyncratic and STEM influencer, is “an astonishing person” and “perfect candidate.”

“When we look astatine accessibility to space, it utilized to beryllium for Caucasian subject pilots,” Pandya said.

“This truly is our time.

“This is the clip we tin bring the scientists, the researchers, but besides radical who haven’t traditionally had entree to abstraction — these storytellers, the entrepreneurs and the artists — to marque usage of abstraction and make a full caller level for creativity, for science, for research.”

Dr. Shawna Pandya tries connected a Kirby-Morgan helmet during her Dive Medical Technician grooming astatine the Aquarius Reef Base. Courtesy: World Extreme Medicine organization/Mark Hannaford

“This is simply the beginning. To beryllium a portion of that, to beryllium live successful this clip successful history, to witnesser that? Myself and my abstraction friends, person been watching and we’re truthful excited, we’re thrilled for what this means for aboriginal science, for engineering, for the future.”

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Pandya herself contributed to the research. She conscionable published a insubstantial with the Association of Spaceflight Professionals connected aesculapian guidelines for commercialized suborbital abstraction flight.

“It’s been really, truly exciting. It’s been a historical period for abstraction travel.”

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First abstraction formation to instrumentality civilians to the International Space Station

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