A Montrealer in space | The press

“It was not an altruistic gesture. I did it for a unique personal experience, but as long as I went to space, I wanted to make a positive difference in society.”

Posted at 8 p.m.

Alice Girard-Bosse

Alice Girard-Bosse
The press

Montreal businessman Mark Pathy recently spent $ 50 million on a private mission to the International Space Station. The contractor, who is installed in the offices of his company, Mavrik Corp., talks about his experience.

“When I made the decision to go into space, I contacted the Canadian Space Agency and the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. I asked them what I could give as a Canadian contribution to science,” he says.


Mark Pathy with the president of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation, Renée Vézina.

During his mission as a private astronaut, the entrepreneur researched chronic pain, the microbiome and sleep disorders. It has also conducted Earth observation and photography missions in collaboration with research centers and universities.


Mark Pathy photographs the Earth from the International Space Station

This mission, organized by the American company Axiom Space, was the first completely private to go to the International Space Station. A spaceship from SpaceX, a company founded by Elon Musk, was used for the trip.

A painful experience

After more than a year of training, including seven full-time months, the entrepreneur flew to the International Space Station on April 8th. He was accompanied by two other businessmen and a former NASA astronaut, Michael Lopez-Alegria.

When we arrived at the station, I was completely disoriented. I was not feeling well. I felt sick. The first few days I had back pain due to microgravity and I had headaches.

Mark Pathy

His experience is not unique. Studies performed by astronauts’ pain have shown that the force of micro-gravity in space, when the gravitational forces are very weak, can increase the perception of pain.

Dr Pablo Ingelmo, a chronic pain researcher at Montreal Children’s Hospital, wanted to learn more about this little-known field of study. “When I was contacted to tell them that I had the opportunity to do an experiment in space, I immediately contacted my team. I asked them to cancel everything they had planned for the weekend. On Monday, we had made the entire protocol, ”he says.


Mark Pathy

Mark Pathy underwent a series of tests before, during and after spaceflight, including questionnaires, blood tests and MRI scans. In the coming months, researchers will compare the results obtained to determine if the astronaut’s body and his perception of pain have changed during the process.

Dr Ingelmo wants the information gathered in space to promote pain research here on Earth.

disturbed sleep

For his part, DD Pediatric sleep specialist Evelyn Constantin sought to understand how the spatial environment affects sleep. To do this, Mr. Pathy always wore a bracelet to measure wakefulness and sleep. “He wore it before the mission, during and after. We compare the different moments to see the impact of the space mission on his sleep, ”says the doctor.

Although the results of the study are not yet available, the astronaut confirms that the quality of his sleep was disturbed during the flight.

It was hard sleeping in the room. There are no visual cues to tell whether it is day or night, so it affects the circadian rhythm.

Mark Pathy

The man slept upright in a sleeping bag that hung from the ceiling. “I got used to it after a few days, but at first it was not easy,” said the astronaut, who slept about five hours a night. “I took sleeping pills almost every night,” he says.

DD Constantin also studied the impact of space travel on the microbiome, that is, all the microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses that live naturally on and in our body. “Sleep and the microbiome are things that have been little explored so far during short space missions. It was a unique experience,” she says.

The return

When he was not participating in scientific experiments, Mr. Pathy kept busy: lectures with schools, interviews, earth observation, photography.

In all, it remained in orbit for 17 days, a week longer than planned. “The weather was not good enough to come back, it was too windy in Florida,” he explains.

His team finally landed at Florida on April 25th. A SpaceX ship came to retrieve it from the Atlantic off Jacksonville.

Two months after his return, Mr Paty is still amazed at his experience. “It was wonderful. It changed my life,” he concludes.

With Agence France-Presse

Leave a Comment