Alumnus Steve MacLean’s space travelogue is a hit

Above: Audience gives astronaut and York alumnus Steve MacLean a standing ovation following his presentation at York on Monday

York alumnus Steve MacLean brought his travel pictures to York’s Keele campus and wowed a packed house at the cinema in York’s Accolade East on Monday. They were snapshots few humans get a chance to take.

Steve MacLean demonstrates weightlessness challengesThe show, titled Steve MacLean: Space Odyssey, was sponsored by the York University Alumni Office, and featured still and video images from MacLean’s flight as a Canadian Space Agency astronaut aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis in Sept. 2006 and his previous shuttle flight in 1992. Although many in the audience knew the story of MacLean (BSc ’77, PhD ’83) and his work as one of the NASA crew building the International Space Station, his detailed and highly personal account of what it’s really like to fly in space captivated the audience, many of whom brought young family members.

Right: MacLean describes the effects of weightlessness

In his remarks to open the evening, Naguib Gouda, executive director, alumni & advancement services said, "Steve has gone farther, literally, than any other York alum." Gouda’s comments caused a roar of laughter from the crowd.

York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden then welcomed MacLean and noted his many efforts as a member of the alumni association’s board of directors to promote the University and its space and science programs. Also in attendance were York Chancellor Peter Cory; Marshall Cohen, Chair of the York University Board of Governors; Mamdouh Shoukri, York’s president-designate; Nick Cercone, dean of the Faculty of Science & Engineering; many of York’s deans; members from York’s Board of Governors; the York University Alumni Association Board and the York University Foundation Board. They joined a full house of York alumni, faculty, staff & students and guests.

Mamdouh Shoukri and Nick CerconeRight: Shoukri (left) chats with Cercone

During his 45-minute presentation, MacLean walked his audience through the shuttle’s preparation and launch – delayed for just over a week by an electrical storm – and described his duties during the flight. Throughout his narration MacLean provided personal details that appealed to his audience, both young and old. In particular, he drew laughs when he simulated the effects of zero gravity on stage and told stories of how he and his crewmates adapted to it. But MacLean also noted the dangers of working in space and the slow, methodical procedures he and his fellow astronauts follow, to make it all look relatively safe and simple.

One highlight of the show was the high-resolution video of MacLean’s first space walk, during which he told the story of a bolt that went missing from the piece of the space station he and crewmate Dan Burbank worked on for about eight hours as they circled Earth at 28,000 kilometres an hour. In Lorna Marsden with Steve MacLeananother sequence, MacLean described, in detail, how he and Burbank fought to loosen another bolt with the success of the whole mission at stake.

Left: Marsden listens to MacLean describe the photo montage he presented to her

MacLean closed the presentation with a series of images of Earth from space that drew oohs and aahs from the audience.

Following the show, MacLean presented Marsden with a montage of images from his flight and a miniature Canadian flag, which he took into space with him.

For more information on Steve MacLean’s flight into space, see the Sept. 22, 2006 issue of YFile. Other stories on MacLean’s flight appeared in the Sept. 15, 2006, Sept. 12, 2006, Aug. 31, 2006 and Aug. 16, 2006 issues of YFile, as well as in the Feb. 2007 and Summer 2006 issues of YorkU magazine.