Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason to retire

One of Canada's original six astronauts is calling it quits after almost 25 years in the space business.

One of Canada's original six astronauts is calling it quits after almost 25 years in the space business.

Bjarni Tryggvason is leaving the Canadian Space Agency in June, the Canadian Press has learned.

The 62-year-old father of two said Wednesday he has decided not to renew his contract with the space agency.

"I'm actually going to be retiring out of the space agency in another month or so and I have some other things that I'm going to start devoting my time to," Tryggvason said in an interview.

His retirement comes as the CSA begins a national astronaut recruitment campaign at the end of May while looking for a new president.

The top job at the CSA is being filled temporarily by Guy Bujold, who leaves in October to take over as president and CEO of Canarie, an Ottawa-based internet development company.

Tryggvason said there is work to do at the CSA to improve how it works with other organizations.

"There still is not as good a working relationship between the Canadian Space Agency and many other government departments and other institutions," Tryggvason said.

"We don't have that dialogue as smooth and as interactive as it should be."

Tryggvason said in an interview the space agency also had some "very good successes," like the Canadarm robotic arms on the International Space Station and the space shuttles.

He also pointed to scientific achievements of the Radarsat satellites, which were built by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, as well as other smaller satellites.

"We've gained a great deal of respect from our international partners in the quality of the work that we do," Tryggvason said.

Veteran of 2 shuttle missions

Tryggvason went into space in 1997 when the former pilot flew as a payload specialist aboard the shuttle Discovery.

Born in Reykjavik, Iceland, Tryggvason was selected as one of the original six Canadian astronauts in December 1983.

Tryggvason said that he plans to spend the next year teaching at the University of Western Ontario.

He is currently chairing the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute's 2008 conference which brings together senior scientists, researchers, engineers and management leaders in space-related fields.

The four-day conference, which takes place every two years, is being held in Montreal.

Tryggvason follows in the footsteps of fellow astronaut Dave Williams who retired from active astronaut status March 1.

Since being selected as an astronaut in 1992, Williams has flown in two space shuttle missions.

He completed his last space flight as a mission specialist in August 2007, establishing a Canadian record of 17 hours and 47 minutes in three spacewalks during one mission. Williams is moving with his family to Ontario.