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First Person: Dave Williams

Astronaut brings Canadian perspective to space travel



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Pique: Are your kids going to be astronauts?

Williams: “I don’t know, they seem to change their minds with the day. The funny thing about being an astronaut in the Houston area is that it is not really a big deal because this is where all the astronauts live. So when you go to your local elementary school the kids say, ‘oh we want to talk to someone exciting like a firefighter.’ Astronauts are just another mom or dad doing their jobs.”

Pique: There is a risk when you go to space how do you handle that?

Williams: “I think there are risks in everything we do and the critical element in exploring space is to be able to manage risk. We manage risk, we don’t take chances.

Basically the whole approach to the program is to lower the risks to as low a level as we can achieve.

Pique: This will be your first chance to do a space walk. Can you tell us about it?

Williams: “I am very excited. Can you just imagine it? You are going 25 times the speed of sound and you stick your head out of the airlock and look down at the earth below you. It will be incredible.

Canada plays an incredible role in missions like this. We have the robotic arm on the space shuttle, we have the robotic arm on the space station, and Canada has also developed a boom sensor system that we are using to inspect the bottom of the space shuttle.

For me it is a real thrill to be Canadian recognizing that we would not be able to accomplish a lot of the tasks on our flight if it were not for the robotic technology that Canada has provided.”

Pique: If you come undone on the walk how are you rescued?

Williams: “If for whatever reason you became untethered on the back of the suit itself we have the life support system and on the back of that is the SAFEVA, the simplified aid for EVA rescue. It’s basically a jet pack and you can reach down and pull out the hand controller and fire jets to fly back to the space station. If that fails we would undock the space shuttle and the shuttle would come and get you.”

Pique: What do you eat in space?

Williams: “Well, you have space food and the best analogy is to think of the type of food you would have if you were going backpacking, like lots of re-hydratable stuff, though some of it is hydrated already and we put it in an oven to warm it up. All of our drinks are all crystals that we re-hydrate. One of the most popular drinks that I like is apple cider. I like drinking Kona coffee so I will have coffee in the mornings and cider in the daytime.”