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Bondar speaks in Sudbury

BY KEITH LACEY She achieved the dream of a lifetime by being the first Canadian woman in space, but that experience made her "stupid", said Dr. Roberta Bondar.
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Bondar presented a 45-minute lecture entitled Reflections From Space to a group of students and faculty at Laurentian University Thursday afternoon.

BY KEITH LACEY

She achieved the dream of a lifetime by being the first Canadian woman in space, but that experience made her "stupid", said Dr. Roberta Bondar.

"I got what's called the space stupids," said Bondar, the renowned scientist, teacher, author and astronaut who made history by traveling in space as part of the space shuttle Discovery mission back in 1992.

"You're in an environment that is so different...it's not like Star Trek...it's so disorienting and your body physiology changes so dramatically."

Bondar presented a 45-minute lecture entitled Reflections From Space to a group of students and faculty at Laurentian University Thursday afternoon.

In the evening, Bondar, who was raised in Sault Ste. Marie, presented a public lecture entitled Never a Distance Too Great: Bridge For Life, a lecture about the environment and conservation programs being taught in Ontario schools in the Fraser Auditorium at Laurentian University.

Much of Bondar's Reflections in Space lecture focused on the intensive nine years of training she endured to spend eight days in space 15 years ago.

What the human body and mind are capable of during intensive training and then while in space is simply remarkable, said Bondar.

"Space flight...is an incredible opportunity to find out how the body can change itself," she said. "In space, there's no horizontal or vertical."

Without gravity, the body and mind undergo tremendous changes, but the intensive training astronauts receive allows them to adapt amazingly well, said Bondar.

While in space, the human heart actually expands while having less blood flow and the way you visualize everything changes because the eyes don't function without gravity the same as they do on Earth, said Bondar.

"The heart rate, blood pressure and blood flow all change," she said. "Your immune system also changes."

The physiological changes are so immense, astronauts spend a great deal of time learning how to handle becoming physically ill during intensive training, she said.

"You quickly learn how much the human body is adaptable and flexible," she said. "For me, it was a huge learning experience."

Bondar told an audience of about 50 students and faculty that she first dreamed of traveling to space as a young girl growing up in Sault Ste. Marie and looking at the stars across beautiful Lake Superior.

"I was eight years old...and was fascinated by the absolutely incredible unknown," she said.

While traveling in space was an experience she will cherish for the remainder of her life, Bondar, who just turned 61, said becoming a doctor is what she's most proud of.

"The most important thing in my life was going into medicine and not into space," she said. "Space was a dream... becoming a doctor allowed me to help my mother and my father...and others."

Bondar encouraged people to never stop pursuing knowledge.

"I spent 18 years in university and I didn't repeat a single year," she said. "When you stop learning you might as well give up."