Steve MacLean’s space odyssey

While many dream of space travel, only a select few have ever broken free of Earth’s gravity, let alone walked in space. That is exactly what Canadian Space Agency astronaut and York alumnus Steve MacLean (BSc ’77, PhD ’83) experienced this past September as a member of the crew on the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Now members of the York community and the public have the opportunity to share his experience on Feb. 19, in the Accolade East Cinema on York’s Keele campus, when MacLean will give a special presentation on his trip to the International Space Station (ISS).

Above: Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean onboard Space Shuttle Atlantis. (Photo: NASA)

On Sept. 9, 2006, MacLean rocketed into space aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis as it embarked on NASA’s STS-115 mission. The mission was an important milestone in the future of space exploration because it marked the resumption of the assembly of ISS. In its payload bay, Atlantis carried new solar power arrays for ISS and another segment of the truss that supports the arrays and forms the backbone of the station. One of the mission’s biggest challenges was to install these items onto the station. The mission marked the first time that major equipment had been added to the station in almost four years.

MacLean took part in the success of Mission STS-115 by operating Canadarm2, becoming the first Canadian to operate the space station’s robotic arm in space. He also used the Space Vision System, developed by Neptec of Ottawa, Ont., to help install a pair of solar panels on the station. With the addition of these panels, there is now more electricity to run all the station’s systems, including life support, daily operations and scientific equipment.

Left: On Flight Day 5, Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean performs his first spacewalk and takes a break to wave to the camera. (Photo: NASA)

During the STS-115 mission, MacLean performed his first spacewalk. He became the second Canadian to step out into the vacuum of space.

The presentation on Feb. 19, titled "Steve MacLean: Space Odyssey", will follow MacLean on this ultimate adventure with new video footage, personal pictures of the Earth and a first-hand account of what it takes to travel to space.

Right: View of the International Space Station shortly after the undocking of Space Shuttle Atlantis on Flight Day 9. The new configuration of the station is clearly visible against the background blue and white provided by the Earth. (Photo: NASA)

Organized by the Alumni Office in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency, this event is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of a York alumnus and to learn about the mission. The event is free and open to the public, however, seating is limited. Members of the York community who are interested in attending this special event should RSVP with the Alumni Office by clicking here. There is a limit of four tickets per person. The deadline to RSVP is Feb. 15.

For more information contact Lindsay Reid, manager, alumni stewardship, at ext. 33732, or e-mail

With files from the Canadian Space Agency. Photos courtesy of the Canadian Space Agency and NASA.