Former Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason dead at 76

The Canadian Space Agency says Bjarni Tryggvason, one of Canada's original six astronauts, has died. He was 76.

One of Canada's original astronauts, he flew aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1997

Bjarni Tryggvason poses on the tarmac at the Kennedy Space Center following space shuttle Discovery's touchdown on Aug. 19, 1997. Tryggvason has died at age 76. (NASA/Reuters)

One of Canada's first astronauts has died.

The Canadian Space Agency is confirming Bjarni Tryggvason, who was part of Canada's original six space voyageurs, died at the age of 76.

Born in Reykjavik, Iceland, Tryggvason grew up in Vancouver.

He joined the Canadian space program in 1983 and flew his one and only mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1997. On that 12-day mission, he orbited Earth 189 times, performing experiments on the atmosphere and the effect of space flight on the shuttle's equipment.

Bjarni Tryggvason, back row centre, with fellow Canadian astronauts Chris Hadfield, Dave Williams, Julie Payette, Robert Thirsk and David Saint-Jacques at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa on May 12, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

After leaving the program in 2008, he returned to teaching at what is now Western University.

In 2009, he flew a replica of the Silver Dart, the first heavier-than-air machine to fly in Canada.

A meticulous engineer

His space program colleagues remembered him fondly as a meticulous engineer and inventor, and as someone who always had a humorous twinkle in his eye.

Bjarni Tryggvason, photographed here on May 1, 2008 in Montreal, announced his retirement in 2008 after nearly 25 years with the Canadian Space Agency. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

The agency acknowledged Tryggvason's death in a series of tweets on Wednesday.

"It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that we learned that former CSA astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason has passed away," the CSA said, describing Tryggvason as "an engineer, a pilot, an educator and an inventor [who] applied the highest standard to everything he undertook."

Former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield also tweeted a tribute to Tryggvason.

"Lost a good friend today. Pioneer astronaut, engineer's engineer, proud parent, inventor, test pilot. A kind, funny, original man — Bjarni Tryggvason."

With files from CBC