Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Alumnus astronaut safely arrives at International Space Station

[Expedition 55 blasts off]
Drew Feustel and the rest of the Expedition 55 crew launch from Kazahkstan on Wednesday afternoon for a two day journey to the International Space Station. (Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

 

March 23, 2018 update: Drew Feustel and the crew of Expedition 55 have arrived at the International Space Station (ISS). The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft docked onto the ISS at 3:43 pm EST after a two day journey from Earth. This was a flawless docking executed by the teams, according to the NASA live feed. Check out footage of the ISS capturing the Soyuz MS-08 below, and other details about the mission, and Dr. Feustel’s many connections to his alma mater.
 

March 21, 2018 update: Drew Feustel and the crew of Expedition 55 have safely launched into low-Earth orbit and are en route to the International Space Station. They will arrive at the ISS on Friday, March 23, at 3:41 pm EST. Check out the photos below of the launch and the Queen's viewing party, hosted by the Department of Geological Science and Geological Engineering.

  • [Expedition 55 crew prepare for launch]
    Expedition 55 flight engineer Drew Feustel of NASA, top, flight engineer Ricky Arnold of NASA, middle, and Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos, bottom, wave farewell prior to boarding the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft for launch, Wednesday, March 21, 2018 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)
  • [Astronauts keep track of vital systems during launch]
    The Expedition 55 crew keep track of the ship's vital systems during launch. (Photo credit: NASA live feed)
  • [Department of Geological Science and Geological Engineering hosts launch viewing party]
    Students from the Department of Geological Science and Geological Engineering watch the launch of Expedition 55. (University Communications)
  • [Students watch the launch]
    Geological Science and Geological Engineering students got to witness Drew Feustel, an alumnus of their program, launch into low-orbit over Earth. (University Communications)
  • [Alex Braun shows students model shuttle]
    Alex Braun (Geophysics) shows Geological Science and Geological Engineering students a model of the shuttle, with a scale replica astronaut to show the immense size of the spaceship. (University Communications)
  • [Closeup of spaceship and lander model]
    A closeup of the model ship and lander that Alex Braun (Geophysics) brought to demonstrate the scale of the spaceship. (University Communications)

Blasting off to the International Space Station

On Wednesday, Drew Feustel (PhD’95, DSc’16) left Earth and began his journey into orbit as the next Canadian to live and work aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The Queen’s alumnus and astronaut is the Flight Engineer for Expedition 55 and will stay on the ISS for six months, taking over as Commander of the ISS in June for Expedition 56.

“We’re excited for Dr. Feustel’s third mission to space, on an expedition overseeing hundreds of experiments over six months,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “From astroparticle physics to clean tech, many of the tests he and his team will perform will contribute to research here on Earth and align with many areas of research excellence here at Queen’s.  We wish him the best for his expedition.” 

Students will get the chance to ask Dr. Feustel questions during a Queen’s-hosted Education Downlink event, Ask an Astronaut, on April 6. More details about this special event will be available soon.

Dr. Feustel’s journey to Queen’s and beyond

Dr. Feustel grew up in Michigan, and came to Kingston to complete a PhD in Geological Sciences at Queen’s in the nineties. He and his wife Indira, a speech-language pathologist from Ontario, met while both were studying at Purdue University. Dr. Feustel attained his Canadian citizenship while in Kingston, and moved to Houston after his PhD to pursue a career in geoscience. Their children, Ari and Aden, were born in Kingston and the family is still closely connected to the area through family and friends.

Dr. Feustel dreamt of becoming an astronaut since childhood, and became interested in the opportunity after watching the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) astronaut search in 1992. He then reached out to Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield while in Houston who encouraged him to pursue his dream. Dr. Feustel applied to become an astronaut with NASA in 2000, and was selected on his first try. Expedition 55 will be his third mission to space.

Back on Earth, Dr. Feustel enjoys auto restoration, car and motorcycle racing, guitar, tennis, and water and snow skiing. It’s still unknown if he’ll bring any of his favourite hobbies with him to the ISS.

About the mission

At least two spacewalks are planned during the mission. Some of the planned experiments during Expedition 55 include:

  • studying thunder and lightning to learn more about the role of severe thunderstorms in Earth’s atmosphere and climate,
  • studying materials, coatings, and components in the harsh environment of space,
  • testing microgravity’s impact on bone marrow, and
  • simulating gravity aboard the ISS and testing on samples such as fruit flies, flatworms, plants, fish, cells, and protein crystals.

An alumni connection through music

Dr. Feustel has another connection with Queen’s: Rob Baker (Artsci’86), lead guitarist with The Tragically Hip.

“About 12 years ago, we were touring in the States and had an upcoming gig in Houston, and we got the call from Drew Feustel, asking if we’d be interested in having a tour of NASA’s facilities,” says Mr. Baker. “It was out of the blue to us, but we grew up in a certain time when the Apollo missions were front and centre in our childhoods growing up, so we were all excited to check it out. We rode the shuttle simulator, got to ask questions and saw them training in this gigantic pool, got a tour of the space arm – it was fantastic, and Drew was amazing with us.”

The two bonded over a shared love for music, and have stayed close friends since.

“He was in a band with a bunch of astronauts at NASA, playing in the same bar that we were. He said they played the greatest hits of the sixties, seventies, and the Tragically Hip,” says Mr. Baker. “I think he gets excited around musicians, but we get pretty excited around an astronaut.”

Mr. Baker wished his friend well on the voyage, and couldn’t wait to hear about everything he’ll get up to on the ISS.

“He’s not just a Canadian in space – he’ll be the Commander of the space station. He’s the king of space! It’s special, and a great connection for Queen’s.”

[Drew Feustel]
Dr. Feustel listens to a reporter’s question during the crew’s final day of qualification exams for Expedition 55 on Feb. 21, 2018, in Star City, Russia.
(Photo credit: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center/Andrey Shelepin and Irina Spektor)
[Drew Feustel with googles]
The Virtual Reality Laboratory at Johnson Space Center is an immersive training facility that provides real time graphics and motion simulators integrated with a tendon-driven robotic device to provide the kinesthetic sensation of the mass and inertia characteristics of any large object being handled.

Follow the journey

Keep this page bookmarked for updates as the launch approaches, and read more at:

Follow Dr. Feustel’s journey on social media:

[Drew Feustel]
Drew is picured here at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, an astronaut training facility located near the Johnson Space Center. Its main feature is a large indoor pool in which astronauts can perform extravehicular activity (EVA).