Dr. Dave Williams has done it all! (Trust us, we’re not exaggerating.) He’s been an ER surgeon, an aquanaut and an astronaut. He’s flown two space shuttle missions and completed 17 hours of spacewalks (which earned him a world record, no big deal.) Did we mention he’s Canadian?
He also wrote a memoir called Defying Limits: Lessons from the Edge of the Universe, where he shares what it took to go from watching a space launch as a kid to actually launching into space.
Here’s a closer look at some of his incredible accomplishments.
Emergency room doctor
In 1998, Dave became an emergency physician with the Department of Emergency Services at Sunnybrook Health Science Centre while also lecturing at the University of Toronto. If that wasn’t enough, he also served as a member of the Air Ambulance Utilization Committee.
In 1992, after already being an accomplished ER surgeon, Dave applied to the Canadian Space Agency. Out of the 5,330 applicants, only four were chosen to join the Space program. Yup, Dave was one of them. During this time, he completed two space shuttle missions.
In 1998, Dave participated in STS-90 as Mission Specialist 3 aboard Space Shuttle Columbia. During the 16-day flight, the seven-person crew served as both experiment subjects and operators for 26 individual life science experiments. These experiments, dedicated to the advancement of neuroscience research, focused on the effects of microgravity on the brain and the nervous system. Dave also functioned as the crew medical officer, the flight engineer during the ascent phase, and was trained to perform contingency spacewalks. Columbia orbited the Earth 256 times, covered over 10 million kilometres and spent over 381 hours in space.
In 2007, Dave was a mission specialist on the 20th flight for Endeavour. He took part in three of the four spacewalks, the highest number of spacewalks performed in a single mission. He spent 17 hours and 47 minutes outside, a Canadian record. Travelling 8.5 million kilometres in space, the Endeavour mission was completed in 12 days, 17 hours, 55 minutes, and 34 seconds.
First non-American to hold a senior position at NASA
From July 1998 until September 2002, Dave held the position of Director of the Space and Life Sciences Directorate at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. With this appointment, he became the first non-American to hold a senior management position within NASA. He concurrently held a six-month position as the first deputy associated administrator for crew health and safety in the Office of Space Flight at NASA Headquarters in 2001.
Throughout his career, Dave continued to take part in astronaut training to maintain and further develop his skills. In 2001 he became an aquanaut through his participation in the joining the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration mission, a training exercise held in Aquarius, the world’s only underwater research laboratory. During this seven-day exercise, Dave became the first Canadian to have lived and worked in space and in the ocean.
Awarded the Order of Canada
Dave was named the officer of the Order of Canada in 2013. He was honoured for his commitment to healthcare and his dedication to improving the Space Program. “I am tremendously honoured and humbled by this once-in-a-lifetime acknowledgement,” Dave said at the ceremony. “Throughout my life, I have chosen career paths that have enabled me to play a role in improving the lives of others. Being recognized for my passion is truly amazing, and I would like to congratulate all of my fellow recipients. Today, I share this achievement with every other Canadian who is committed to making a difference.”
Watch the video clip above to learn more about Dr. Dave Williams and is new memoir.