Monday, October 05, 2009

Canada’s Silver Anniversary in the Stars

Twenty-five years ago today, Canada’s first astronaut blasted into space.

Marc Garneau was one of six initial astronauts to take part in the Canadian Astronaut Program (CAP), selected out of over 4,000 applicants.

He became Canada’s first person in space, on October 5, 1984, when he launched off of terra-ferma towards the stars aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger (mission STS-41-G) as the payload specialist. The mission lasted until their landing back on Earth on October 13, 1984.

The Canadian space program’s future was in doubt early on. Garneau has said that NASA originally extended an invitation for three astronauts to fly aboard three shuttle missions, as a form of saying “thanks” for Canada’s design and building of the robotic Canadarm.

Those first three shuttle missions went to Garneau, Roberta Bondar – the first Canadian woman in space – and Steve MacLean. MacLea

Space Shuttle ChallengerImage via Wikipedia

n is the current president of the Canadian Space Agency, a position Garneau held from 2001 to 2006.

Although Garneau is still sought after by the media for commentary on space-related news stories, he’s long since stepped down from the Canadian Space Agency, representing Westmount-Ville-Marie in QC as their Liberal Member of Parliament (MP).

A lot has happened in space exploration in the past 25-years.

Just as Garneau celebrates his silver anniversary in space, a billionaire

Canadian Space AgencyImage via Wikipedia

has bought his way into orbit, to become the first Canadian space tourist.

Guy Laliberte blasted off last Wednesday morning aboard a Russian-built Soyuz rocket, from a launch pad in Kazakhstan. Laliberte is the founder of the Cirque du Soleil, and has paid about $35 million for the privilege. For that mega-amount of coin, he gets to spend nine-days at the International Space Station. Add in travel time from Earth to the space station (about two days) and he’ll be back on Earth on October 10, when he returns with two astronauts who have been up there for several months.

Being a space tourist isn’t easy – the Quebec City native had to train for five months prior to launch to prepare for his voyage above the Earth.

One day in the distant future, space travel may be as common as hopping on the bus, or in your car, and heading out on the space superhighway. Astronauts and the new breed of space tourists are paving the way for more star treks, by not just those in the space program and the wealthy, but everyone.

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