Canadian doctor will join Virgin Galactic research space crew

Dr. Shawna Pandya, a Brandon, Man.-born, Edmonton-raised physician and space scientist, is seeing a life-long dream become reality: she’s going to space.“I will be flying to space with Virgin Galactic on their new Delta Class of spacecraft with Kellie Gerardi and Dr. Norah Patten of Ireland as early as 2026,” Pandya said.

She earned a degree in neuroscience from the University of Alberta, studying medicine, before taking her Masters at the International Space University in France. Since then, Pandya has worked as medical advisor to several space, medical and technology companies.“You work in very international, interdisciplinary teams. I’ve worked with flight surgeons and physiologists and biomedical engineers. And to come full circle from those early Masters’ student days to actually flying payloads myself is a dream come true.”

This mission is a partnership between Virgin Galactic and the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS), of which Pandya is space medicine director.

The IIAS has been championing space and microgravity as the next great research laboratory, Pandya said, especially through commercial spaceflight.“Traditionally, the path towards becoming an astronaut in space has been through government space agency selections, such as with the Canadian Space Agency and NASA. In Canada, we’re small but mighty. We’ve had four ever CSA selections, which is really exciting, but this is just creating a whole new avenue to space,” she explained.

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