August 17, 2007 Features & Images » Feature Story

First Person: Dave Williams 

Astronaut brings Canadian perspective to space travel

click to enlarge Dave Williams
  • Dave Williams

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Dave Williams headed into space aboard the shuttle Endeavour on Wednesday, Aug. 8,the 119 th space shuttle flight and the 22 nd flight to the International Space Station.

Since Wednesday’s launch NASA has discovered a gouge that penetrated the thermal tiles on the belly of the space shuttle and the mission has been extended three days. Endeavour is now scheduled to undock from the space station on Aug. 20 and land Aug. 22.

The mission is also likely to be the last time a Canadian astronaut will go into space for some time, as the U.S. winds down its shuttle program. Pique reporter Clare Ogilvie caught up with Williams by phone in Houston, Texas, where he lives with his Air Canada Captain wife, Cathy, and his two kids Olivia, 9, and Evan, 13, before take-off.

This is the second time Williams, 53, has been in space, a mission he has waited 10 years to complete after his dream was repeatedly delayed.

Williams performed his first space walk on Saturday, as he and fellow astronaut Rick Mastracchio replaced a faulty altitude control device on the International Space Station. The two are likely to have to do another space walk to repair thermal tiles on Endeavour that were damaged during last week’s launch.

Williams said prior to the mission he hopes to break the 14 hour and 54 minute Canadian record for the longest space walk.

Williams is the first Canadian to live and work in both space and the ocean after he became an aquanaut and lived aboard NEEMO, NASA’s undersea facility off the coast of Florida.

He comes by his love of exploration honestly as his father was an avid mountaineer, climbing Mount Garibaldi in 1939. In fact Williams has taken an Alpine Club of Canada patch into space as one of the 10 mementoes he is allowed to carry on the mission.

He traveled to B.C. many times before joining NASA’s space program and of course has a tale or two to tell.

Williams: “Can I tell you my Whistler story? I mean everyone has one don’t they?”

Pique: Of course, we’d love to hear it.

Williams: “Truly I love Whistler, it’s a great place and I have been there many, many times going back to the ’70s. But I was there in about 1984, I had just finished medical school, and Cathy and I were out skiing and they were just building the condos at the base of the south chair. We looked at them and we said, ‘we should buy a condo.’ So we go and we look and we say, ‘Oh, we can’t really afford to.’ They wanted $90,000 for them.

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