Two orbiting Canadian astronauts recall moon landing during space station linkup

LONGUEUIL, Que. - Canada's two history-making astronauts reflected on the anniversary of the first moon landing Sunday and talked about life on the International Space Station, with one of them comparing the experience to camping.

LONGUEUIL, Que. - Canada's two history-making astronauts reflected on the anniversary of the first moon landing Sunday and talked about life on the International Space Station, with one of them comparing the experience to camping.

"Living aboard the space station is like camping-out, it's not a hotel-class lifestyle, it's more of a rustic-class lifestyle," said Canadian Bob Thirsk, who joined fellow Canadian Julie Payette Sunday in a live video appearance, both standing proudly in front of a Canadian flag.

Thirsk, who is doing a six month stint on the space station, has been dozing off in a sleeping bag in one of the laboratories.

"If you're the type of person who enjoys camping, you'll love it here," he told reporters during a down link with the Canadian Space Agency, south of Montreal.

When Payette arrived with six crewmates on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour Friday it became the first time Canada has had two astronauts together in space.

They answered questions from Garry Goodyear, Canada's minister of state for science and technology, who asked Payette what it is like to be back on the space station, 10 years after her first visit to the orbiting outpost.

She noted there was no one on board during her first trip but now, along with Thirsk, there are 11 other astronauts working and living on the giant orbiting space lab.

"It's a tremendous size and we were also excited to come on board and see that many people," she said.

The space station was still under construction when she was last aboard it and the progress made on it since then is impressive, Payette said.

"It's a habitat now," she said. "There are people living here for a long period of time and you can see it's a home not just an empty laboratory like I saw 10 years ago."

"We're very happy to be part of this great international community," added Payette, who admitted she was not as good as Thirsk when it came to adjusting to the weightlessness of space because he has been there longer than her.

Thirsk has already spent seven weeks on the space station and is scheduled to return to Earth in November.

"Learning not to loose my things, which is a daily event for me is something that takes a long time," Thirsk commented.

But he added he was "about 90 to 95 per cent of the way there" in learning to float comfortably around the space station.

It was 40 years ago on July 20, 1969 that two American astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the moon.

Earth-bound reporters wanted to what memories the two Canadians had of the lunar milestone and if anything special was planned.

Payette said the 13 astronauts on board were planning a big supper to mark the occasion.

She said it was the Apollo 11 mission that inspired her to become an astronaut, but the 45-year-old Payette noted she was only a child when the historic event occurred.

"My parents said I was sleeping when it happened," she said.

Thirsk was only eight-years-old at the time when he watched Armstrong and Aldrin walk on the moon.

"I decided at that point, if I ever had the chance, I'd like to become an astronaut," he said.

The astronauts were contending with problems with one of the two toilets on the space station.

Thirsk said two crew members were working on the problem and it was expected to be fixed Monday morning.

Payette also talked about flying over Canada on Saturday and viewing the country from coast to coast, from Vancouver to Nova Scotia.

"We have an excellent country when viewed from space," she said as the transmission ended.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also issued a statement to mark the occasion of having two Canadians in space at the same time.

"I congratulate Dr. Thirsk and Ms. Payette for their latest accomplishment,' he said.

"Both astronauts serve as tremendous role models for any young Canadians interested in pursuing a career in science, technology and engineering." he said.

Harper also congratulated the scientist, researchers, engineers and other professionals at the Canadian Space Agency.

"Thanks to your hard work and dedication, Canada continues to have a record of which we can all be proud."

 
 
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