Academy students chat with Gov. Gen. Payette

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PICTOU — Students at Pictou Academy enjoyed a special Skype session recently with Governor-General Julie Payette.

The students and staff assembled in the auxiliary gym and viewed Payette on a wide screen, thanks to a lap top and technicians brought in to present the session.

Academy principal Starr Pettipas said she did not know what process was used but explained that the school happened to be among four across Canada that Payette addressed that day through arrangements with her staff.

“They consulted us,” Pettipas said. “She lines up the four schools for 30-minute sessions. We came up with 10 questions from the students and sent them ahead of time, and then they asked them. It’s the first time I ever heard of it.”

Payette gained renown as a Canadian astronaut who lived in the U.S. while she worked with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), but she said she welcomed the chance to return to Canada when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed her as governor general in 2017.

“I was looking forward to coming back to Canada after 17 years away,” she said. “It was really hard, but I liked being an astronaut.”

Payette shared a view from space that clearly showed P.E.I. and parts of the Northumberland Shore that included Pictou.

She expressed her admiration for Canada and the opportunities young Canadians have to succeed.

“I know you will succeed because you live in a great country.”

Taylor Toole was among the students who attended the session. “It was interesting how we got picked among so many schools across Canada,” she said. “It was really cool that she could show us Pictou from space.”

“It was very interesting for the governor-general to speak to our school,” Isaac MacDonald added.

Nina Davey said she never realized Payette was an astronaut.

Cassie Laybolt said she felt grateful to have attended.

“I thought it was really cool, being able to get this opportunity to speak to her,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever get another opportunity.”

Before becoming governor-general, Julie Payette was an astronaut, engineer, scientific broadcaster and corporate director. From 1992 to 2013, she worked as an astronaut and flew two missions in space. She also served many years as CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) at NASA’s Mission Control Centre in Houston, Texas, and was chief astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency.