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5 Things You Should Really Know About Canada’s First Woman in Space

Dr. Roberta Bondar joins Planet in Focus Film Festival on Tuesday, October 17 to accept the PiF 2017 Canadian Eco-Hero Award. You might know her as Canada's first woman in space, but there are many reasons we are honouring her this year. We've shared 5 of Dr. Bondar's incredible accomplishments below.

1) Dr. Bondar is also the first neurologist to have gone to space

In 1981, Dr. Bondar became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in Neurology. Not long after, she began training as an astronaut and was designated Payload Specialist for the first International Microgravity Laboratory Mission. Bondar flew on the NASA Space Shuttle Discovery during Mission STS-42, January 22–30, 1992, where she conducted pioneering research in the Spacelab.

After her career as an astronaut, Dr. Bondar headed an international space medicine research team at NASA for over a decade, continuing to find new connections between astronauts recovering from the microgravity of space and neurological illnesses here on Earth such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Bondar’s techniques have been used in clinical studies at BI Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School and at the University of New Mexico.


2) She is the author of four photo essay books which feature her photography of Earth

Dr. Bondar studied photography at the Brooks Institute of Photography, Santa Barbara, California and became a celebrated landscape photographer: “Having seen Earth from the unique perspective of space, her Earth centered pictorial images celebrate the beauty of our natural environment at an intimate level.” [source]


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3) There are five elementary schools in Canada that are named after Dr. Roberta Bondar

This really speaks to her passion for education and learning. She grew up with a mother who was passionate about teaching – and so Roberta and her sister, Barbara, grew up in a household that valued curiosity, education, and sharing.

Dr. Bondar was Chair of the Working Group on Environmental Education for the Province of Ontario whose recommendations called for the development of an environmental education policy for Ontario schools. All 32 recommendations of the working group were accepted by the Minister of Education and implemented to strengthen environmental education for elementary and secondary school students. The follow-up policy framework document can be found here.

“Without knowledge, the world is bereft of culture. And so we must be educators and students both. At some point, an educator must broaden the net to include all issues relevant to humanity’s challenges.” – Dr. Roberta Bondar


4) She founded The Roberta Bondar Foundation to help people of all ages connect to nature in a meaningful way

The Roberta Bondar Foundation was established in 2009 to address the growing ‘nature deficit’ our society is facing. The foundation’s programs help “cultivate a sense of awe, respect and appreciation for other life forms that share our planet.”

One of the Foundation’s programs – the ‘Travelling Expedition‘ – tours around Canadian communities for several months at a time, bringing education about the natural world to people where they are. Through art, the exhibition fosters a bond between people and nature with the goal of educating participants on species diversity, the role species diversity plays in sustaining life on the planet, and to wake people up to the natural beauty that surrounds them on Earth.


5) She is passing on her love for photography and the earth to a younger generation – inspiring kids to get outside and experience nature through ‘The Bondar Challenge’

Another program run by the Roberta Bondar Foundation, ‘The Bondar Challenge‘ is a “hands on field-based experience that promotes environmental education across all age groups through photography.”

The program is run in schools and summer camps as a way to educate young people about photography while also fostering in them a connection to the natural world. Kids are taught how to use a digital camera along with a range of photography techniques and then take what they have learned out into nature, capturing images of the natural environment. Each participant selects a photo to send in to the Roberta Bondar Foundation and a panel of judges selects winning photographs, which are then displayed on the Foundation’s website.

We can’t think of a better way to inspire passion and empathy for the planet than this. We are thrilled to be honouring Dr. Roberta Bondar on October 17th, presenting her with the 2017 Planet in Focus Canadian Eco-Hero Award. Join us for An Evening with Dr. Roberta Bondar at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema where she will give a keynote address and take audience questions.



Join us for an Evening with Dr. Roberta Bondar on October 17th, 7:00pm, at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.

Join us for the 18th Annual Planet in Focus Film Festival, October 19-22 in Toronto: world film premieres, panel discussions with filmmakers, artists, and academics, and International and Canadian Eco-Heroes. Let’s save the planet together – one film at a time! Explore the festival schedule


Don’t miss the 18th Annual Planet in Focus Film Festival in Toronto (October 19-22), Canada’s largest and longest-running environmental film festival!


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