First Canadian Astronaut Marc Garneau Appointed Cabinet Minister

First Canadian Astronaut Marc Garneau Appointed Cabinet Minister

Marc Garneau, the first Canadian astronaut, is now Canada’s Transport Minister under new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  What role he will play in Canada’s space policy and programs is unclear.  The Canadian Space Agency has been under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Industry, but the Trudeau government eliminated that ministry.

Garneau was the first Canadian astronaut, flying on the space shuttle STS-41-G mission in 1984.  He flew on two additional shuttle missions, STS-77 in 1996 and STS-97 in 2000.  He became President of the Canadian Space Agency in 2001.

Five years later, he resigned from that position to run for Parliament as a member of the Liberal Party, but lost.  Subsequently, he was elected to Parliament and has served in a number of Liberal Party positions since then. 

As Transport Minister, Garneau is responsible for safe and secure aviation, marine, rail, and road transportation systems. 

Trudeau, 43, was sworn in as Prime Minister today, replacing Stephen Harper, a conservative.  Trudeau is the son of the late Pierre Trudeau, who served as Canada’s Prime Minister from 1968-1979 and 1980-1984.

According to the list of cabinet ministers announced today, there no longer is a ministry devoted to industry.  Instead, the ministries of science and technology, and industry, have been combined under the leadership of Navdeep Bains. the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

Astronauts becoming politicians is rare, but not unprecedented.  In the United States, John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, became a U.S. Senator (1974-1999), as did Harrison “Jack” Schmitt (1976-1982), the only scientist to walk on the Moon during his Apollo 17 mission.   Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert was elected to the House of Representatives in 1982, but died of cancer before he could be sworn in.  Two politicians — Sen. Jake Garn and then-Rep. Bill Nelson (now a Senator) — became astronauts, flying aboard the space shuttle as payload specialists in 1985 and 1986 respectively.

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