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25th anniversary of first Canadian astronaut

Oct. 6, 2009 – Marc Garneau's journey into space as the country's first astronaut 25 years ago marks a milestone for Canadian history.


October 6, 2009
By Administrator

Oct. 6, 2009 – Canada is marking a milestone – Marc Garneau blasted into space as the country's first astronaut 25 years ago.

The anniversary coincides with another first, Guy Laliberte as Canada's first space tourist.

The Quebec billionaire paid $35 million to spend nine days on the International Space Station. He is also visiting Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk whose six-month stay on the giant space lab ends Nov. 23.

Garneau, now a Montreal Liberal MP, said he could never have anticipated how far space tourism or co-operation with the Russians would have come in just 25 years.

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The astronaut-politician points out that originally there was some uncertainty about the future of Canada's space program.

No Canadian Space Agency even existed at the time. It only came into existence in 1989, five years after Garneau's initial trip.

Garneau says the country's future in space appeared to be assured only when Canada signed on in 1986 as one of the partners in the International Space Station.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff called Garneau a hero.

"On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our parliamentary caucus, I offer my congratulations to Marc on this historic day," he said in a statement.

"We are all proud of you."

NASA gave Canada three spots on its space shuttles as thanks for building the robotic Canadarm.

The seats went to Garneau, Roberta Bondar _ the first Canadian woman to fly in space _ and Steve MacLean, the current head of the Canadian Space Agency.

The program has grown and, in all, Canada has sent eight astronauts on fifteen missions.

Garneau wound up on cereal boxes and had schools named for him after the young naval officer began an eight-day mission Oct. 5, 1984, on the now-infamous Space Shuttle Challenger.

He made three trips to space, totalling 677 hours, as a payload and mission specialist.