“It is a privilege to use this experience to make connections with people. And we are here in Lithuania with the delegation of Canada so that we make those connections”, said Canada’s 29th Governor General, Her Excellency Julie Payette who visited Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) last week.
The former astronaut and the first Canadian woman to be on the International Space Station (ISS) says that it is only a matter of time before the first Lithuanians travel to space.
Julie Payette worked as an astronaut and flew two missions in space. Ms Payette flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1999. She visited the space station again ten years later.
Dare to dream
Ms Payette became a symbol in a frontier of science and technology. Until recently, these pursuits were limited only to men. However, she notes that it is important to follow your passion whoever you are.
“Choose something you like – and if you do, then it’s a lot easier. Dare to choose what your passion is”, said Ms Payette, when asked about how to encourage girls to choose engineering and technology.
She admits that today the situation in terms of gender equality is not the same as it used to be. For example, at the time when Ms Payette decided to become an air force pilot, women were not allowed to do so in Canada. But the situation changed just a few years later.
Ms Payette argues that scepticism, intolerance and challenges can happen to everyone, but it is not worth focusing on them.
“In Canada, we don’t spend much time thinking that we are different. We just concentrate on what we are trying to accomplish and we know it requires effort and work. After all, we don’t control the colour of our skin, our gender, or where we were born, what language we speak. But we control our education, competence and skills”, said the former astronaut.
Lithuania from space: a colourful landscape
This was the first Ms Payette’s visit to Lithuania. She still remembers what Lithuanian nature looks like from space. According to the Governor-General of Canada, it is just as beautiful on the ground as it is from space.
“You can tell where Lithuania is, and you don’t see the border between Kaliningrad and Lithuania or Belarus. But you see the landscape and it’s gorgeous”, says Ms Payette.
She notes that it is only a matter of time before the first Lithuanians travel to space.
“You are a part of Europe. We astronauts from Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, Italy and other countries. People from smaller countries can apply to the European space stations to become astronauts; also, soon we will be able to fly on commercial flights to space”, says Ms Payette.
According to her, this kind of experience will require only a little practice to adapt the body to the changing environment
Today, the international space station is the size of a football field. Currently, there are 6 people on board and they rotate every 6 months.
Different views of the earth
The former astronaut says that the greatest privilege to be on a mission like this is to be able to see the planet from above. During the orbital night, cities come to life, and if there are no clouds, very accurate pictures can be taken.
“It’s extraordinary how this planet of ours is dynamic. Every day it is not only sustaining us but also is transforming itself”, says Ms Payette.
Although the astronaut’s experience on the space station has been very enriching, Ms Payette says she spent most of her time working in countries other than home.
“It’s normal that in your career progression you change. I have decided that I wanted to come back home and work in Canada”, says Julie Payette, Canada’s 29th Governor-General.