Canadian astronaut Julie Payette made a triumphant return to the Canadian Space Agency headquarters in Longueuil, Que., Friday, her first appearance since returning to Earth aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.
Payette was greeted with applause as she visited the agency headquarters nearly a month after completing her 16-day mission in space.
During the mission, Payette and her shuttle and station crew mates installed a porch-like structure used to conduct experiments exposed to the harsh conditions of outer space — the third and final major component to Japan's Kibo laboratory.
Payette's main duties were operating the station's robotic arms, including the Canadarm 2 and the robotic arm on the Kibo module.
But she said teamwork was essential to survival when working in space.
"If you're going to power up a computer, for example, you are not going to do this alone. Most of the time you will do this with someone else," she said.
"Both of you will look at the switch, both of you will confirm which switch it is and sometimes we triple-check it is the right procedure and the right steps because there are things that will kill you. And you don’t want to be that one famous person who flicks a switch without asking your colleagues," she said.
Canadians together in space
The shuttle mission was a milestone for Canada, as it marked the first time two Canadians worked together in space.
Robert Thirsk, from New Westminster, B.C., travelled to the space station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, which lifted off from a launch pad in Kazakhstan on May 27. He is living on the station for six months, the first Canadian to stay aboard the station for an extended period of time.
Though Thirsk is on an extended stay, Payette said he only packed only one sweater. But he was gracious enough to lend her the sweater for her 10 days aboard the station so she could wear it when using the station's Canadarm 2.
"I was quite grateful to be able to operate shuttle arm with it, as it was quite cold there," she said. The mission was also the first time 13 astronauts worked together on a mission, the largest-ever gathering of people in space.
It was Payette's second trip to the space station. She first flew there in 1999, when the orbiting outpost had only two modules and no one on board.
In explaining to the crowd why she wanted to get back into space, she showed an image of the Earth from space taken as day was turning to night.
"This is why this is so addictive and fantastic," she said. "[It's] the opportunity to see the blue planet from this level."