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1984: Marc Garneau chosen as Canada's first astronaut

His bravery is inspiring, his grace is charming and his credentials are out of this world. In 1984 Marc Garneau became the first Canadian to fly on a NASA mission to space. During his 15 years as an astronaut, Garneau flew three times and made countless contributions to the Canadian space program, eventually becoming its president. On the ground or in the air, Garneau has been a passionate educator and trailblazer for space exploration.

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After a rigorous selection process, Marc Garneau is chosen to be the first Canadian astronaut to fly on a NASA mission to space. Today marks the beginning of his life as a national celebrity and a space hero. In October 1984, Garneau will climb aboard the Challenger shuttle and blast into space. In this CBC Television interview, Garneau talks about his extraordinary upcoming journey.
• Marc Garneau was born on Feb. 23, 1949, in Quebec City where he spent most of his childhood. He has one older brother and two younger brothers.

• He received a PhD in electrical engineering from the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London and then went into the navy, where he served 10 years as a combat systems engineer.

• NASA invited Canada to partake in its manned missions as a gesture of appreciation for the Canadian-made mechanical space arm called the Canadarm. The Canadarm is a robotic reaching arm attached to the space shuttle. It is used to manipulate satellites and other hardware from within the shuttle.

• Canada donated the Canadarm to NASA, as part of the space shuttle program. It was an expensive gift -- at approximately $100 million Cdn. But NASA later ordered and paid for four additional units. Canada has since become renowned for its expertise in robotics. For more on the Canadarm, please visit our topic Canadarm - A Technology Star.

• Garneau was the second non-American to go into space on a NASA flight. The first was Ulf Merbold, from Germany, who flew in 1983. Selected only seven months before flying, Garneau had the shortest training period in NASA's history. He arrived in Houston two months before the flight and was trained only in the essentials - preparing food, using the bathroom, communicating, and knowing how to handle emergencies.

• Garneau had a cluster of space experiments to complete for Canada. The experiments focused on the body's response to outer space, ranging from the sensitivity of nerve endings to the nature of motion sickness. For eight days the seven astronauts orbited the earth once every 90 minutes, a total of 133 times, at a speed of 27,000 km/h. The distance covered was more than 5.3 million kilometres.

• In 1989 Garneau was named deputy director of the Canadian Astronaut Program. In this position he would provide technical and program support for the preparation of space experiments on future Canadian missions.

• In 2001 he became president of the Canadian Space Agency. He stepped down from his position to run for the Liberals in the 2006 federal election. Although he was touted as a "star candidate," he lost.  He did win a seat for Westmount-Ville-Marie in 2008 and held the seat in the 2011 election.

For more on the career of Marc Garneau, please visit our topic Marc Garneau: Canadian Space Pioneer

Also on March 14:
1868: Emily Murphy is born in Cookstown, Ont. Murphy was one of the "Famous Five" who led the battle to have women declared legal "persons" under the British North America Act. In 1929 their victory before the British Privy Council allowed women to be appointed senators. Murphy died in Edmonton in 1933.
1957: The Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) is born, forever changing how Canadians save for retirement. Finance Minister Walter Harris announces the program during his delivery of the federal budget speech in the House of Commons. This new investment account allows users a tax shelter for such financial properties as mutual funds, stocks, bonds and mortgage loans.
Medium: Television
Program: The Journal
Broadcast Date: March 14, 1984
Guest: Marc Garneau
Host: Barbara Frum, Keith Morrison
Duration: 5:47

Last updated: November 3, 2014

Page consulted on November 3, 2014

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