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Indo-Canadian Bioastronautics Researcher Shawna Pandya to Fly on Virgin Galactic’s Delta Class Spaceship

Indo-Canadian Bioastronautics Researcher Shawna Pandya to Fly on Virgin Galactic’s Delta Class Spaceship

  • Joining her on the IIAS-02 Mission are Kellie Gerardi of the United States, and Dr. Norah Patten of Ireland.

Indo-Canadian physician and astronaut Dr. Shawna Pandya is among three bioastronautics researchers named by the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS) to fly into space aboard Virgin Galactic’s Delta Class spaceship. The two others going her are Kellie Gerardi of the United States, and Dr. Norah Patten of Ireland.

The IIAS-02 Mission will be her Pandya’s spaceflight. Currently director of IIAS’ Space Medicine Group, she is also vice president of Immersive Medicine with Luxsonic Technologies. The Saskatoon, Canada-based start-up company “leverages immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) 360° video and extended or mixed reality, for delivering health care,” according to its website. 

Pandya is also a skydiver, pilot-in-training. She was on the first crew to test a commercial spacesuit in zero-gravity in 2015, according to her Virgin Galactic profile. To date, “she has flown 10 parabolic flight campaigns, culminating in over 160 parabolas of experience in micro- and reduced gravity,” the profile added. 

She earned her aquanaut designation on the 2019 NEPTUNE (Nautical Experiments in Physiology, Technology and Underwater Exploration) mission, and completed a second aquanaut mission, NEP2NE. She served as Payload Crew and co-PI of the 2023 IIAS-01 suborbital research flight, as well as a PI and/or co-I for Ax-2, Polaris Dawn and Blue Origin payloads. 

In an interview with Nature magazine she recalled how she was “captivated” as she watched Canada’s first female astronaut, medical doctor Roberta Bondar, fly into space on Jan. 22, 1992. Now her work is “permanently exhibited” at the Ontario Science Center alongside Bondar.

Pandya first earned a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, in 2006, and then she pursued a master’s at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, graduating in 2007.After that she completed a degree in medicine at the University of Alberta in 2012.

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She now juggles her entrepreneurial roles with her astronaut duties and medical career. “My life is like a box of chocolates — I never know what I’m going to get,” Pandya told Nature when asked about how she balances her various roles. 

She shared her schedule with the magazine to demonstrate how every day is different. “There’s no nine to five, five days a week. It’s seven days a week. I’m working on a plane, in airports, wherever I can. I do it because I love it.”

Her publications include a paper on medical guidelines for commercial suborbital spaceflight, and book chapters on space technologies that have benefitted terrestrial medicine, psychological resilience in long-duration spaceflight, reproduction and sexuality in long-duration spaceflight, and the future of space medicine.” She was named to the Explorers’ Club’s “50 Explorers Changing the World in 2022. This year, she was recognized for her contributions by the Women’s Space Awards in the Medicine and Health category, and named a Karman Pioneer. Her work has been profiled by Nature Careers and the Royal Canadian Mint. 

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