When I was down in Cape Canaveral to see the STS-95 launch in 1998, I ran into Canadian astronaut Julie Payette. It was really cool to see her there. I went up to her and said, “Hi, Julie. I just want to say ‘hi’ to a fellow Canadian.” She was very gracious and agreed to let her press aide take a picture of the two of us together.
Six months after this picture was taken, Julie served as mission specialist on the space shuttle Discovery during STS-96 and became the first Canadian to visit the International Space Station.
I was actually at the Kennedy Space Center at the time and was fortunate enough to spend some time in Mission Control during Julie Payette’s flight. What an incredible experience that was! I was very relieved that none of the astronauts called into say, “Houston, we have a problem…”
Julie Payette made a second trip to the International Space Station in 2009 during STS-127 and was the Flight Engineer and lead robotic operator during the mission. Fellow Canadian Robert Thirsk was serving about the ISS at the time, making it the first time two Canadians had been in space together.