Photo: Canadian Press
The Canadian Space Agency said it wanted to hire former astronaut Robert Thirsk to help him find out how to contribute medical expertise to the human mission to Mars.
Thirsk is a medical doctor who holds the Canadian record for time spent in space, thanks to an extended mission on the International Space Station in 2009. It was two qualifications considered by the space agency for a $ 94,500 contract announced publicly on Friday, said Thirsk is the only person on Earth that fits the bill.
"As such, Dr. Thirsk is uniquely positioned to provide CSA with the perspective of flight crew and medical personnel with regard to health and performance requirements during long-term flights, as well as related capabilities to meet these requirements," the agency's agency said in a public post Friday.
It issued a "prior contract notice," basically an open call for anyone who thinks they can meet agency needs better than Thirsk to speak.
Because those requirements are defined in posts, no one can.
Former astronaut Roberta Bondar is a doctor, but he spent eight days in space for nearly 205 Thirsk. Dave Williams is a doctor who leads NASA's space and life directorates and performs tasks responsible for the health and safety of the flight crew, two missions added up to 28 days in space.
Chris Hadfield, perhaps the most famous astronaut in Canada, spent 166 days in space on two space shuttle missions and stayed long on the International Space Station – but he was a pilot, not a doctor.
Another important Canadian astronomer, Julie Payette, was declared engaged for the next two years as Governor-General, while Marc Garneau, who is now federal transportation minister, wants to be re-elected to the House of Commons next fall.
Even if one wants the job, there is no proper qualification from the agent.
This work involves spending the next two years determining what Canadian scientists and health experts can do to help astronauts outside of low Earth orbit, and sell to the public about the benefits of investing in space health.
Thirsk will work with the "Canadian biomedical, health and performance community so that space health care solutions contribute to improving the delivery of remote health care on Earth, in addition to other terrestrial health care benefits," said the post.
Thirsk will also work with NASA "to secure an important and real role in the field of health and performance of astronauts."
The United States is contemplating a mission to Mars, possibly in the early 2030s when the two planets will be the closest. NASA administrators recently visited Ottawa to ask Canadian assistance for the initial steps, including a platform to orbit the moon for human missions there.