Doctorat honorifique - Éloge de Julie Payette

par Marius Paraschivoiu, juin 2010

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Ms. Julie Payette, astronaut, engineer, scientist and distinguished representative of the Canadian Space Agency.

”When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut,” is a popular refrain among kids. At the age of 10, Julie Payette said the same thing.

She never gave up on her goal. After completing her schooling and gaining crucial experience in the field, she applied, along with 5 330 other hopefuls, to become one of four CSA astronauts. It goes without saying that she landed her dream job and she was only 28.

Avant son ascension fulgurante, Mme Payette a fréquenté le United World College of the Atlantic au pays de Galles, grâce à l’une des six bourses
canadiennes. Elle a ensuite obtenu un baccalauréat en génie de l’Université McGill, puis une maîtrise ès sciences appliquées en génie informatique de l’Université de Toronto. Pendant son cursus, elle a reçu de nombreuses bourses d’études et de recherche pour l’excellence de ses résultats.

She acquired strong professional experience as a system engineer, a research assistant at U of T, a visiting scientist at the IBM Research Laboratory in Zurich and as a Research Engineer for the Speech Research Group at BNR/Northern in Montreal. Her research centered on computer systems, natural language processing, automatic speech recognition and the application of interactive technology in space.

To prepare for her space mission, Ms. Payette had to undergo six years of rigorous training, including acquiring her commercial pilot license and logging over 120 hours of reduced gravity flight-time. She was certified as a one-atmosphere, deep-sea diving suit operator and earned her military pilot captaincy on the CT-114 Tutor jet.

En 1999, Mme Payette a participé au 26e vol de la navette Discovery à titre de spécialiste de mission, devenant ainsi la première Canadienne à travailler à bord de la Station spatiale internationale et la huitième à voler en apesanteur dans l’espace.

Elle a ensuite été élevée au rang d’astronaute en chef de l’Agence spatiale canadienne, poste qu’elle a occupé jusqu’en 2007. L’été dernier, elle a pris part à une deuxième mission à bord de la navette Endeavour en tant qu’ingénieure de vol. À cette occasion, elle a manipulé les trois bras robotiques. Par ailleurs, Mme Payette compte plus de 1 300 heures de vol comme pilote d’avion et 611 heures de vol dans l’espace.

In between missions, she has worked as a capsule communicator or CAPCOM, a specialized position reserved usually for astronauts. The CAPCOM is typically the only person to speak directly with the flight crew. So if ever the astronauts said, “Houston, we have a problem,” Ms. Payette would be there to answer the call.

She also has a facility with languages and a passion for the arts. She speaks Spanish, Italian, Russian and German in addition to French and English. She has sung with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Piacere Vocale in Basel, Switzerland and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in Toronto. In addition to her successes with the CSA, she is a member of l’Ordre des Ingénieurs du Québec, a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and a Knight of the l’Ordre national du Québec. Just a few weeks ago she was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

Ms. Payette is a true model citizen: down to earth, disciplined, determined. For her strength, courage and ingenuity, we are so pleased to recognize her today.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and honour to present to you Julie Payette so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.