________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 15 . . . .April 1, 2005


Roberta Bondar: The Exceptional Achievements of Canada's First Woman Astronaut. (Amazing Stories).

Joan Dixon.
Canmore, AB: Altitude Publishing (Distributed by Knowbuddy Resources), 2004.
126 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55153-799-0.

Subject Headings:
Bondar, Roberta Lynn, 1945-.
Women astronauts-Canada-Biography.
Discovery (Spacecraft).

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Linda Ludke.

*** /4



Like all NASA astronaut candidates to date, Roberta fit the personality profile—a high achiever who was self-confident without arrogance. Throughout her intellectual, athletic and recreational pursuits, she had demonstrated strong motivation and discipline and proven her ability to learn quickly and on the fly. On top of all that, she was clearly ambitious, extroverted and articulate, not necessarily important qualifications for a space scientist, but very important for the public relations work she would have to do on behalf of the Canadian space program within Canada and NASA.


In this "Amazing Stories" biography, Joan Dixon presents an easy-to-read profile of Dr. Roberta Bondar. While growing up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario during the 1950's, Roberta spent her free time building spaceships out of cardboard and reading science fiction comics. Her parents encouraged her scientific pursuits, and, by the age of 31, Bondar was an accomplished scientist, medical doctor and athlete. When she heard that the National Research Council was seeking Canadian men and women to fly as astronauts on future space shuttle missions, she applied without hesitation. Her application stood out from the 4300 submitted, and in 1983 she became one of Canada's "Select Six" space pioneers.

     Readers will be intrigued by the descriptions of the rigorous training programs. To test the effects of motion on the body's balancing system, astronauts rode a "space sled." The infamous "Vomit Comet" prepared the astronauts for space sickness. Bondar's week in space onboard the shuttle Discovery is recounted in the "Living on the Edge" chapter.

     Dixon briefly explores the gender stereotypes and discrimination that Bondar and other female astronauts had to confront. Newspaper reporters in the United States once asked Sally Ride if she was planning on wearing a bra in zero-gravity.

     The "Acknowledgement" page notes that Dr. Bondar reviewed the facts in the book. Dixon uses quotations from published interviews, recorded press conferences, and mission briefings to bring a sense of immediacy and authenticity to the text. Students will find the "Timeline" of space exploration, "Brief Resumes of the Crew of STS-42" and short biographical summaries of "Canada's Select Sixthe Other Five" helpful for research projects.

     Five black and white photographs are featured, including official NASA portraits and memorabilia such as a commemorative card celebrating the liftoff of mission STS-42.

     Space enthusiasts will enjoy this biography of a remarkable Canadian.


Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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