Our man in space, Steve MacLean

Canadian Astronaut Steve MacLean called his home planet Saturday morning and spoke to journalists across North America from aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. Speaking via video conference, he was joined by the rest of the six-member crew of mission STS-115 and the crew of another mission, Expedition 13.

MacLean is the second Canadian to perform a spacewalk referred to as an EVA, or ‘extravehicular activity’. He is also the first Canadian astronaut to operate Canada’s contribution to the space station, the robotic arm, known as Canadarm 2.

When asked about his experience aboard Atlantis, Steve relived his first time stepping out into space. He said the first time he looked outside, he thought, ” ‘Wow, am I ever high’ . but I didn’t have that falling feeling.”

The French and English reporters gathered at Canada’s Space Agency in St. Hubert for the video conference asked questions about MacLean’s impressions of his current mission and his 20-year career as an astronaut.

Born in Ottawa, Maclean received a Doctorate in Physics from York University. After working at York and being a member of Canada’s national gymnastics team, he became a laser-physicist. He started astronaut training in 1984 after being chosen by the CSA. His first space mission was in 1992, and four years later he began mission specialist training at the Johnson space centre in Houston.

The dual-mission crews discussed with reporters the success of their mission, their achievement of significant milestones and also their difficulty with gravity. After performing three space walks in as many days, they were enjoying a half-day off. Maclean joked with reporters at the start of the conference and said, “Living and working in no gravity is a very different thing. It’s clumsy and [you] bump into things till you get your ‘sea legs’.”

The crew members each took turns explaining how the mission’s aim was to build a foundation for the future. They have been working on construction and inspection, but more importantly gathering information to pass on to future crews. These current missions are meant to prepare for deeper space exploration in the future, closing a gap between the Earth and beyond.

The crew’s hard work has been rewarded with off-duty time to “relish space life,” take personal photos and even tour the entire international space station they have been looking after.

MacLean spoke about flying over Canada and looking down at the Earth and the oceans. Describing a favourite experience, he said “At night, [to] turn off your lights and look into the Universe and heavens . [it] is just amazing.”

The Atlantis was scheduled to begin its return endeavour back to Earth on Sunday, but it has been postponed until Thursday, as NASA has decided to take additional time to analyze an unidentified object that was spotted near the shuttle.

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