Julie Payette (born October 20, 1963 in Montreal, Quebec) is an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) who currently works primarily with the United States's National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Payette holds a multi-engine commercial pilot license with instrument and float ratings. Payette plays piano and has sung with the Montreal Symphonic Orchestra Chamber Choir, the Piacere Vocale in Basel, Switzerland, and with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra Choir in Toronto, Ontario. She is fluent in French and English, and conversational in Spanish, Italian, Russian and German.
Payette attended primary and secondary school in Montreal and received her International Baccalaureate in 1982 from the United World International College of the Atlantic in South Wales, UK. She earned a bachelor of engineering degree in electrical engineering from McGill University, Montreal and a Master of Applied Science in computer engineering from the University of Toronto in 1990.
She is a member of l'Ordre des Ingénieurs du Québec, an appointed member of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering. She belongs to Les Amies d’affaire du Ritz and is on the board of directors of United World Colleges (International).
Payette received one of six available Canadian scholarships to attend the International UWC of the Atlantic in South Wales, UK (1980), the Greville-Smith Scholarship (1982-1986), which is the highest undergraduate award at McGill University, and was named a McGill Faculty Scholar from 1983 to 1986. She held an NSERC post-graduate scholarship and a Massey College Fellowship from 1988 to 1990. She received the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers distinction for exceptional achievement by a young engineer in 1994. She has honorary degrees from Queen's University (1999), the University of Ottawa (1999), Simon Fraser University (2000), Université Laval (2000), the University of Regina (2001), Royal Roads University (2001), the University of Toronto (2001), the University of Victoria (2002), Nipissing University (2002). She is a chevalier de l'Ordre de la Pléiade de la francophonie and an officer of the National Order of Québec.
Before joining the space program, Payette conducted research in computer systems, natural language processing, automatic speech recognition and the application of interactive technologies to space. She worked as a system engineer for IBM Canada from 1986 to 1988), a research assistant at the University of Toronto from 1988 to 1990, a visiting scientist at the IBM Research Laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland in 1991 and a research engineer in the speech research group, at Bell-Northern Research / Nortel, in Montreal in 1992.
Payette was selected by the CSA as one of four astronauts amongst a field of 5,330 applicants in June 1992. After undergoing basic training in Canada, she worked as a technical advisor for the MSS (Mobile Servicing System), an advanced robotics system and Canada’s contribution to the International Space Station. In 1993, Payette established the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Group at the Canadian Astronaut Program and served as a technical specialist on the NATO International Research Study Group (RSG-10) on speech processing (1993-1996).
In preparation for a space assignment, Payette obtained her commercial pilot license, studied Russian and logged 120 hours as a research operator on board reduced gravity aircraft. In April 1996, Payette was certified as a one-atmosphere deep sea diving suit operator. Payette obtained her captaincy on the CT-114 military jet at the Canadian Air Force Base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in February 1996. She obtained her military instrument rating in 1997. Payette has logged more than 900 hours of flight time, including 450 hours on high performance jet aircraft.
Payette reported to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas in August 1996. She completed initial astronaut training in April 1998 and was assigned to work technical issues in robotics for the Astronaut Office.
Julie Payette flew on Space Shuttle Discovery from May 27 to June 6, 1999 as part of the crew of STS-96. During the mission, the crew performed the first manual docking of the Shuttle to the International Space Station (ISS), and delivered four tons of logistics and supplies to the Station. On Discovery, Payette served as a mission specialist, held responsibility for the Station systems and operated the Canadarm robotic arm on orbit. The STS-96 mission was accomplished in 153 orbits of the Earth, traveling 4 million miles in 9 days, 19 hours and 13 minutes. Payette became the first Canadian to participate in an ISS assembly mission and to board the Space Station.
Payette is the Chief Astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency. She also works as a CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) at the Mission Control Center in Houston. She divides her time between these responsibilities and astronaut currency training.