The Path to NASA

“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.”

Message from Dr. Andrew Feustel, PhD'95, DSc'16, to alumni. The next Canadian in space will serve as the flight engineer and later commander of the International Space Station.

Live from Space: Q&A from the International Space Station

On April 6th, Queen's University hosted a LIVE Q&A with Dr. Feustel via video broadcast from the International Space Station. The astronaut answered questions generated by the Queen's community earlier this month and spoke to his out-of-this-world experiences. This is the first time NASA has granted a Canadian school access to host a live educational downlink directly from space.

Thank you for your participation in this exciting event. If you missed the live stream, watch it online

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 Queen’s. 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.

The path to NASA: from Queen's University to the International Space Station. How a cold call to Col. Chris Hadfield started it all.

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.

Learn more about NASA Expedition 55

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.”

Well wishes from QUAA President Sue Bates, ArtSci'91, Col. Chris Hadfield, Rob Baker of The Tragically Hip, Governor General of Canada Julie Payette, Michelle Thompson, Sc'11, Nobel Laureate Arthur McDonald, Principal & Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf, and the Queen's community. 

Follow the Journey

Dr. Feustel's story as it originally appeared in the Queen's Gazette.