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My meetings with Canadian astronauts

Note: The statements about the Canadian Space Agency on this page are those of the website's author and do not necessarily represent positions or opinions of the Canadian Space Agency.

My dream as a child was to become an astronaut one day, like a lot of children across the world. I even put my name down for the national Canadian astronaut recruitment campaign in 2008. However, the selection committee wasn't impressed by my lack of experience in 47 out of the 50 selection criteria of the second round (I am barely exaggerating!), such as commercial and military scuba diving! haha I didn't end up being among the best 2000 candidates. However, I don't feel too bad because we had been exactly 5351 to enter our names for the first round... I reapplied in 2016 during a subsequent Canadian astronaut recruitment campaign. I went a little farther, still in the race with the 1700 best candidates. However, I did not qualify myself among the best 600 candidates.

I have had the opportunity to personally meet several astronauts since I started working at the Canadian Space Agency. I also had the privilege of seeing all Canadian astronauts when commemorative stamps were revealed in 2003. The Canadian Space Agency had organized a special ceremony with all astronauts (retired or not); I was very impressed during this ceremony. You will find below a summary of my meetings with some of them.

Let's say that if it were as easy to get close to Jon Bon Jovi, I would be a happy woman! haha

Marc Garneau - March 2002

I met Marc Garneau when I was a student at the Canadian Space Agency and when he was our president; he was then a retired astronaut. It was a very interesting meeting nonetheless, since it was the first time that I could talk to someone that had gone in space! The picture below was taken when I met him; I was fairly excited!

Marie-Hélène Cyr and Marc Garneau

Marc Garneau is an extraordinary man; he was even a little shy that I complimented him like I did! I had the opportunity to have lunch with him a little later in my career and he really is a nice guy!

Steve MacLean - December 2007

I had the incredible chance to be seated at the same table as Steve MacLean and his wife during the Canadian Space Agency Christmas party in December 2007. I don't know how I managed to work that day, quite honestly... Let's say that I had one of the best dinners of my life in their company! Dr MacLean was a little shy of all the compliments that I could say... I unfortunately don't have any pictures of this event, but I will always remember his stories while he was in space and his words of encouragement so I would put my name down for the national Canadian astronaut recruitment campaign. Based on what he could see from the strength of my glasses, my sight complied with the basic criteria!

Dave Williams - January 2008

When Dave Williams went into space in August 2007 aboard shuttle Endeavor, we could send a few personal electronic files that would get burned on a DVD and that Dr Williams would bring with him in space. I didn't miss this opportunity to go into space through files that would characterize me; I sent family pictures, poems that I had written and a copy of my Bon Jovi fan club card that I had scanned.

Dr Williams did a conference when he got back and a question period followed his conference. I then risked to ask him, in front of 200 people, if he had been more nervous during the launch or during the landing of the shuttle. He had answered with wisdom that neither the launch or landing had scared him, but that his family had been pretty nervous for him during both events.

In January 2008, Dr Williams held an autograph session after we had received a copy of our files that had gone into space with him. I then had the chance to talk to him a little bit and have my picture taken with him. It was the first time I touched the blue astronaut flight suit; I was surprised by the thickness of the fabric!

Marie-Hélène Cyr and Dave Williams

I was so nervous and happy when the picture was taken that I had a weird smile on my face...

Julie Payette - June 2008

I briefly talked to Julie Payette during a special event for her upcoming mission into space in June 2009. I don't have pictures of this meeting.

Julie Payette - January 2009

I talked to Julie Payette once again in January 2009 when she revealed her mission patch at the Canadian Space Agency. I even had the chance to get my picture taken with her.

Marie-Hélène Cyr and Julie Payette

David Saint-Jacques & Jeremy Hansen - May 2009

May 13, 2009 was a great day for the Canadian space program; two new astronauts were revealed following the astronaut recruitment campaign to which I had the opportunity to apply for the position. On May 14, we all welcomed David Saint-Jacques and Jeremy Hansen as they made their official entrance at the Canadian Space Agency as astronauts. I was able to shake hands with these two extraordinary men. They have the looks and what it takes to become great astronauts. When I shook hands with David Saint-Jacques, I told him: "Congratulations! And, realize the dream of all of those who applied to become astronauts (including me)." He answered that he would try to live up to our expectations the best he could. Both rookies are very charismatic and I love them already. I wish them the best of luck! I'll be able to say that I shook hands with astronauts before they went in space!

Robert Thirsk - May 2009

May 27, 2009 was another great day for the Canadian space program; Robert Thirsk flew to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. He was the first Canadian to fly aboard a Soyuz and he was also the first Canadian to spend several months on the International Space Station. The day of the launch, the Canadian Space Agency held a few activities in his honor. Among those was the recording of personalized video messages by the employees that Robert Thirsk watched in space during his trip. I didn't miss this opportunity to send my voice and my face into space! Another available activity was to get employees to get their picture taken beside a full-sized mock-up of Robert Thirsk. These pictures were also transmitted to him. While waiting to have my picture taken with him, at least I had some memories of me and his mock-up!

Marie-Hélène Cyr and Robert Thirsk's mock-up

Steve MacLean & David Saint-Jacques - June 2009

I had an incredible experience on June 9, 2009. I had wanted to have my picture taken with Steve MacLean for quite some time. With the help of my supervisor at work that told Steve MacLean that one very dedicated employee wanted to have a picture taken with him, my dream came true! When I came close to Steve MacLean, I explained to him that he was the only astronaut that I had met without having my picture taken with him. He answered that he was about to make it happen... I was very excited and my lips were trembling when we took the first picture, so I told him that I was nervous. He was able to calm me down rapidly and just in time for me to do my best smile for a second picture. Steve MacLean also took a few minutes of his time to talk to me about my work at the Canadian Space Agency. He is the president after all, he had the right to know if I like my job!

Marie-Hélène Cyr and Steve MacLean

A few minutes after finishing talking to Steve MacLean, I saw that David Saint-Jacques was not far away from me. After hesitating for about a second, I decided to go ask him if he would accept having his picture taken with me; the occasion was too good to pass! Before I went to talk to him, I waited a moment. My supervisor then saw that I was very nervous and he told me to breathe. I realized at this moment that I had stopped breathing since a few seconds!! I officially introduced myself to David and I shook hands with him. I asked him if he would accept taking a picture with me, a thing he immediately agreed to with pleasure. While verifying that the pictures were OK on the camera, I made a comment about the width of my smile. This comment quickly led to a discussion between me and David on my braces and mostly on my orthognathic surgery. Being a physician, he quickly got interested in knowing what I had gone through and I provided details with pleasure! I cannot believe that I talked to an astronaut about my orthognathic surgery!! Furthermore, I had the time to ask him what had motivated him to go to medical school after completing long engineering studies. Finally, I wished him a lot of success in his astronaut career and we exchanged a sincere handshake that I'm not about to forget!

Marie-Hélène Cyr and David Saint-Jacques

David Saint-Jacques & Jeremy Hansen - July 2009

I realized another dream on July 22, 2009: have my picture taken with two astronauts at the same time! A part of an astronaut's job is to meet people. David Saint-Jacques and Jeremy Hansen, the two new Canadian astronauts, went to all the offices at the Canadian Space Agency to meet the employees. When they came to our department, I was able to shake hands once again with David Saint-Jacques (who remembered me!) and with Jeremy Hansen who insisted on talking to me in French. Then, I was able to get a few pictures taken with them after they accepted of course! They seemed to find it funny that I insisted on having my picture taken with them! Let's face it, I was well surrounded!

Jeremy Hansen, Marie-Hélène Cyr and David Saint-Jacques

Robert Thirsk & the STS-127 crew - November 2009

Another of my dreams was to talk to someone live from space. I realized this dream on November 2, 2009! I entered a contest at the office to win the chance to ask a question to Robert Thirsk who was then on the International Space Station. To my great surprise, I was picked up along with 4 other of my colleagues. I was very nervous to ask my question, as was the majority of my colleagues. When I arrived at the microphone, I introduced myself to Robert Thirsk in English and I asked my question in French. What a joy it was for me to hear him say "Bonjour Marie-Hélène" when he started answering my question! My voice really reached space! On the following picture, we can see me asking my question and we can also see a TV screen in the background showing Robert Thirsk on the International Space Station!

During this event, we also had the chance to have with us the whole crew of the STS-127 mission to which Julie Payette was a part of. I had the chance to shake hands with several astronauts that day!

Marie-Hélène Cyr - November 2, 2009

We can see a good part of the STS-127 mission crew on my right.

Robert Thirsk - January 2010

After a 188-day stay aboard the International Space Station, Robert Thirsk came to the Canadian Space Agency to tell us about his experience. I didn't miss the opportunity to ask him a question at the end of his conference. After the event, I went to the front of the conference center with the idea of meeting Robert Thirsk officially. With the help of colleagues, I was able to introduce myself to him, to talk to him for a moment and to get my picture taken with him!

Marie-Hélène Cyr and Robert Thirsk

Chris Hadfield - September 2010

I didn't miss the opportunity to go to the press conference during which we learned that Chris Hadfield would be the first Canadian as commander of the International Space Station during a 6-month stay in space: the launch of this mission was on December 19, 2012. With the help of a colleague and friend who introduced me to Chris Hadfield, I was able to talk to him for a few moments between 2 interviews with the media after the press conference. Patience and contacts can really bring a lot! It was such an honor for me to shake hands with the only Canadian who has gone on the Mir space station, the one who installed Canadarm2 on the International Space Station and the one who will be the commander of the biggest spaceship ever made by man. Our meeting was brief, but will stay engraved in my mind forever. I don't get the chance to talk and even laugh with an astronaut of this magnitude everyday! The pictures are not extraordinary, because I only had my iPhone as a camera! It doesn't matter, it's the memory that counts!

Marie-Hélène Cyr and Chris Hadfield

Normal way of taking a picture with an astronaut.

Marie-Hélène Cyr and Chris Hadfield

I was supposed to take a serious look while crossing my arms, but we laughed so hard while taking the pictures that I failed my mission!

That's it! I officially met all the Canadian astronauts before my tenth year anniversary of work at the Canadian Space Agency!

David Saint-Jacques - May 2016

After a few weeks of rumors and anticipation, the big news was announced: David Saint-Jacques was chosen as the next Canadian astronaut to go to the International Space Station for a 6-month mission in November 2018! We were lucky enough to see him at the Canadian Space Agency a few days later. He took the opportunity to meet every employee after a warm welcome in the main entrance. I was so emotional when I was able to approach him to congratulate him and he recognized me right away, I forgot what I wanted to tell him. The only thing that came out was : "I am so proud of you!" I was finally able to get a picture with him in his flight suit!

Marie-Hélène Cyr and David Saint-Jacques

Jennifer (Jenni) Sidey and Joshua Kutryk - July 2017

On July 1, 2017, during the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada, Justin Trudeau introduced the two new Canadian astronauts, Jennifer (Jenni) Sidey and Joshua (Josh) Kutryk. We were fortunate enough to see them at CSA during the following business day, that is July 4, 2017. It was the first time for me to meet astronauts so early in their career! My first contact with them was something to remember forever! I felt immediately very much at ease with both of them! They are fantastic people! On the same day, my youngest son even had the chance to meet and get a picture with Jeremy Hansen who was also at the Canadian Space Agency for the special day in honor of our new astronauts! We have rarely seen three active Canadian astronauts at the same time at work!

Marie-Hélène Cyr and Jennifer (Jenni) Sidey
Marie-Hélène Cyr and Joshua Kutryk

My meetings with astronauts are moments when I consider myself very privileged, mostly when I can talk to them for a few minutes. I now have very good memories in my head from which I can find the inspiration to continue dreaming of stars!

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