Astronaut regales Western crowd
By Maureen Finn
As a contribution to Western’s 125th anniversary celebrations,
the faculty of engineering launched its Distinguished Lecture
Series with Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason’s talk
entitled “Space for Everyday: An Astronaut’s Reflections.”
In Aug. 1997, Tryggvason flew on a space shuttle to conduct
scientific experiments and experience life in space.
“This was a tremendous opportunity, as it costs $20
million to be sent into space, and Bjarni managed to get paid
for it,” said Franco Berruti, dean of the faculty of
Tryggvason described the launch to space as initially calm. “[Suddenly
it feels like someone has] jumped on you and is shaking you — there
is so much vibration, you’re pushed into your seat and
breathing becomes laboured,” he said, adding there is
then an immediate relief when the engines shut off. “[Then
it’s] time to un-buckle and float around — it’s
a pretty amazing feeling.” He noted that the shuttle
travels at incredible speeds, up to 25,000 feet per second.
Tryggvason said he hoped his talk would give the audience
a bigger picture of how space really fits into our daily lives.
He explained that the media often portray the nicest pictures
of Earth, while in reality there are many that reveal the harmful
damage the planet has suffered.
“North America is the cleanest place on Earth, next
is Europe and then Australia,” he said, noting several
areas of the planet have undergone tremendous damage over the
years and there needs to be a focus on its long-term well-being.
Tryggvason said Canada’s biggest contribution to space
studies has been its Radarsat monitoring. These satellite images
provide us with information about environmental impacts and
agricultural and weather conditions.
He noted there were over 120 million fish taken from Earth’s
waters in 1995. Radarsat helps track this type of damage to
the environment. “It’s very important [to monitor
this damage] because we are stressing our poor planet,” he
said. “That is evident when you look at it from space.”
Members of the audience said they were excited and intrigued
at the well-attended lecture. “This was one of the most
spectacular presentations ever. The numbers and measurements
he mentioned are incredible,” said Kevin Whittam, president
of the Undergraduate Engineering Society.
Tryggvason also worked at Western’s Boundary Layer Wind
Tunnel in the 1970s and was a lecturer in applied mathematics
from 1980 to 1982.