History of the Canadian Astronaut Corps
The Canadian Astronaut Program was established under the management of the National Research Council of Canada in 1983, when the United States invited Canada to fly an astronaut on the Space Shuttle. This invitation led to the creation of a permanent corps of Canadian astronauts to coordinate and conduct Canadian experiments in space.
That same year, in response to the first call for Canadian astronauts, the Canadian Astronaut Program received more than 4,000 applications. After a rigorous evaluation period, Roberta Bondar, Marc Garneau, Steve MacLean, Ken Money, Bob Thirsk, and Bjarni Tryggvason were selected based on their exceptional academic backgrounds, professional experience, health, and communication skills.
In 1989, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) was established as an independent government agency to deal with all Canadian matters relating to space, including space exploration, remote sensing, and satellite communication. The Canadian Astronaut Program was included in this amalgamation.
In 1992, when the Canadian Space Agency announced that it would recruit four more individuals to undergo astronaut training, 5,000 interested Canadians applied. After a six-month selection process, Chris Hadfield, Mike McKay, Julie Payette, and Dave Williams were selected.
In the summer of 1992, Roberta Bondar and Ken Money both left the program to return to their research activities. Mike McKay resigned in early 1995, and Dave Williams retired from the Astronaut Corps on March 31, 2008. Marc Garneau was appointed Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Space Agency on February 1, 2001, and became President on November 22 of the same year. He left the Agency on November 28, 2005. On September 1, 2008, Steve MacLean was appointed President of the Canadian Space Agency, a position he holds to this day. Only three astronauts are currently qualified for space flight, and two candidates recruited in 2009 for the Astronaut Corps are now in training.
In March 2008, the Canadian Space Agency launched a new recruitment campaign entitled Do You Have What it Takes? Once again, a large number of Canadians responded. Over 5,300 applications were received. In May 2009, following a lengthy selection process that took about a year, Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques were the two candidates chosen.
Since 1984, when Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space, eight Canadians have flown on NASA Space Shuttles and on Russian Soyuz rocket in 15 space missions.
In May 2009, Robert Thirsk flew to the International Space Station (ISS) for a six-month stay, thus becoming the first Canadian to stay aboard the ISS for an extended period. On December 1, 2009, after spending 188 days in space, Robert Thirsk returned to Earth aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.
First team of Canadian astronauts, selected in 1983. Back row, from left to right: Ken Money, Marc Garneau, Steve MacLean and Bjarni Tryggvason. Seated: Robert Thirsk and Roberta Bondar.
Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Corps, 2002.Back row, from left to right: Chris Hadfield, Dave Williams and Bjarni Tryggvason.Seated, from left to right: Bob Thirsk, Julie Payette and Steve MacLean.(Source: Canadian Space Agency, 2002)
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