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Canadian Space Agency astronaut profiles

The men and women that have become part of Canada’s space team

  • Sep 30, 2014
  • 1,067 words
  • 5 minutes
Canadian astronauts pose inside the Living in Space Exhibition Expand Image

The Canadian Astronaut Program was established in 1983 and since then, 10 Canadians have become astronauts. Learn more about each one.

1st group (1983)

Dr. Roberta Bondar
Born Dec. 4, 1945 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
– Bachelor of Science degree in zoology and agriculture
– Master of Science degree in experimental pathology
– Doctorate in neurobiology
– M.D.

Dr. Roberta Bondar was part of the first group of Canadian astronauts selected in 1983. She became the second Canadian, and first Canadian woman, in space aboard Discovery on mission STS-42 in 1992. She retired from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) later that year to pursue her medical research.

Marc Garneau 
Born in February 1949 in Quebec City

  • Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Physics
  • Doctorate in Electrical Engineering
  • Retired Captain, Royal Canadian Navy


Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space on mission STS-41G in 1984, the first non-American Capsule Communicator for mission STS-65 in 1994 and the first Canadian to fly in space twice on mission STS-74 in 1996. Garneau was appointed president of the Canadian Space Agency in 2001 and resigned four years later to pursue his current career in politics.

Bjarni Tryggvason 
Born Sept. 21, 1945 in Reykjavik, Iceland

  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Engineering Physics
  • Postgraduate in engineering with specialization in applied mathematics and fluid dynamics

Mission STS-85

Born in Reykjavik, Iceland, Bjarni Tryggvason came to Canada as a child and attended school in Nova Scotia and British Columbia. He was selected as one of the Canadian Space Agency’s first astronauts in 1983 and trained as a back up payload specialist for the Canex-2 experiments.  In 1997, he completed his first and only spaceflight on mission STS-85.

Dr. Steve MacLean 
Born Dec. 14, 1954 in Ottawa

  • Bachelor of Science
  • Doctorate in Physics
  • Former President of the Canadian Space Agency
  • Chief Astronaut of the CSA
  • Chief Science Advisor for the ISS
  • Director General of the Canadian Astronaut Program


Dr. Steve MacLean began astronaut training in 1984 along with the first wave of Canadian astronauts. In 1992, MacLean served as payload specialist for mission STS-52 aboard Space Shuttle Columbia and completed a second space flight 10 years later for mission STS-115, where he became the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm2. In 2008, he was appointed president of the CSA and resigned in 2013.

Dr. Robert Thirsk 
Born Aug. 17, 1953 in New Westminster, B.C.

  • Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering
  • Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering
  • Doctorate of Medicine
  • Master of Business Administration

NEEMO 7 (underwater)
Expedition 20/21

Dr. Robert Thirsk took his first spaceflight, and the longest ever by a Canadian astronaut, in 1996 as a Payload Specialist on mission STS-78.  In 2009, Thirsk launched aboard Soyuz TMA-15 marking the start of Canada’s first long-duration mission aboard the International Space Station. He retired from the CSA in 2012 and now serves as Chancellor of the University of Calgary.

Dr. Ken Money
Born Jan. 4, 1935 in Toronto
– Bachelor of Science degree in physiology and chemistry
– Master of Science in physiology
– Ph.D. in physiology
Never went to space, but designed experiments for:
Spacelab IML-1

Dr. Ken Money is the only member of the first wave of Canadian astronauts to not fly in space. However, he has made significant contributions to space science and was responsible for the launch of Canada’s first medical experiments on mission STS- 41G in 1992. That same year, Money was the alternate payload specialist for STS-42, the first Microgravity Laboratory mission. He left the CSA in 1992 to pursue his passion of studying and practicing physiology.

2nd group (1992)

Julie Payette
Born Oct. 20, 1963 in Montreal
– Bachelor of Engineering, Electrical 
– Master of Applied Science, Computer Engineering 

After Julie Payette was selected to become one of four astronauts for the CSA, she completed basic training and worked as the technical advisor for the mobile servicing system for the International Space Station. Prior to her first mission to space, she obtained her commercial pilot licence and completed more than 1,300 hours of in-flight training.  In 1999, she served as mission specialist for STS-96 and 10 years later, she acted as flight engineer for mission STS-127. In 2013, she retired from the CSA.

Chris Hadfield
Born Aug. 29, 1959 in Sarnia, Ont.

  • Bachelor degree in mechanical engineering
  • Master of Science in aviation systems
  • Retired Colonel, Canadian Air Force

Expedition 20/21
NEEMO 14 (underwater)
Expedition 34/35

Chris Hadfield’s career is full of firsts. In 1995, Hadfield became the first Canadian Mission Specialist and the first Canadian aboard space station Mir during mission STS-74. In 2001, Hadfield returned to space on mission STS-100 to deliver Canadarm2 to the International Space Station and was the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk. In 2013, Hadfield became the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station and retired shortly after his return.

Dr. Dave Williams 
Born May 16, 1954 in Saskatoon
– Bachelor of Science, Major in Biology
– Master of Science
– Doctorate of Medicine
– Master of Surgery
NEEMO 1 (underwater)
NEEMO 9 (underwater)

After Dr. Dave Williams completed basic training, he was appointed manager of the Missions and Space Medicine Group within the Canadian Astronaut Program. His first spaceflight occurred in 1998 on mission STS-90 where he served as mission specialist 3 and helped the crew conduct 26 life science experiments. His second and final mission in space was in 2007 on mission STS-118, where he served as mission specialist. Williams retired from the CSA in 2008.

Mike McKay
Born May 10, 1963 in Bracebridge, Ont.

  • Bachelor of science in engineering physics
  • Master of science in electrical and computer engineering
  • Master of Business Administration degree
  • Former Major, Canadian Air Force


Mike McKay, Canadian Armed Forces captain specializing in computer engineering and, replaced Robert Stewart, who resigned shortly after being selected, as the final candidate in the second wave of CSA astronauts. In 1995, McKay resigned for medical reasons.


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This story is from the October 2014 Issue

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