Julie Payette spoke at Queen’s while I was a student (whether I was a senior undergraduate or Master’s student at the time, I cannot recall). She was an amazing person to hear — down-to-earth, unassuming and friendly, but self-confident and committed to NASA’s exploration mission. At that time, there was a lot of uncertainty about the International Space Station (ISS) and the meaning and real public interest of near-earth exploration. Astronaut Payette was working out of Moscow and Kazakhstan as a liaison officer for NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Russian space program, then suffering a lot of financial troubles and turning to selling private seats to visit the ISS. I didn’t know how she could remain so enthusiastic; and frankly, I wondered whether someone so talented would reflect on herself doing PR for an aged space program desperately arguing for its own relevance. Anyway, I was convinced: by the end of her talk, I was persuaded that space exploration was as valuable as ever and later dabbled in a Mars Analogue Rover Project. She was certainly an important influence on my subsequent career choices.
She is an excellent choice for Canada’s next Governor General!