History of the Canadian astronaut corps

In 1974, NASA sought out Canadian expertise for the development of a robotic arm, the famous Canadarm. That marked the beginning of a close collaboration between Canada and the United States in human space flight.

Learn more about the milestones in the Canadian space adventure!

Not long after, NASA invited a Canadian astronaut to participate in a space mission. That invitation led to the creation of the first team of Canadian astronauts in 1983.

In total, Canada has recruited 12 astronauts through 3 campaigns, and 8 of those exceptional people have participated in 16 space missions.

First astronaut recruitment campaign

More than 4,000 people responded to the call for astronauts in 1983.

The Canadian astronauts selected in 1983. Back row, from left to right: Ken Money, Marc Garneau, Steve MacLean and Bjarni Tryggvason. Front row: Robert Thirsk and Roberta Bondar. (Credit: Canadien Space Agency)

After a rigorous hiring period, the following people were selected based on their exceptional academic backgrounds, professional experience, health, and communication skills:

Second astronaut recruitment campaign

In 1992, the Canadien Space Agency (CSA) announced that it would recruit four more individuals to undergo astronaut training. Over 5,000 Canadians applied.

After a six-month selection process, four candidates were selected:

The four Canadian recruits in 1992. Back row, from left to right: Chris Hadfield, Dave Williams. Front row: Michael McKay, Julie Payette. (Credit: NASA)

Third astronaut recruitment campaign

In March 2008, after some of Canada's seasoned astronauts had retired, the time had come to recruit new members: the CSA launched a new recruitment campaign.

Once again, a large number of Canadians responded: over 5,000 applications were received.

The Canadian astronauts recruited in 2009. Left: Jeremy Hansen. Right: David Saint-Jacques. (Credit: CSA)

After a lengthy selection process that took about a year, Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques were chosen in May 2009. They are the CSA's two active astronauts and are based at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Jeremy works at Mission Control Center as capcom. Eventually, he will be assigned to a space mission.

David is preparing for his first six-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

Life after space

Retired astronauts don't necessarily stop working! They generally pursue professional activities in line with their expertise.

For example, they can:

  • work in academia, the medical field, or another area of activity in astronautics;
  • speak at schools;
  • contribute actively to science.

Back row, from left to right: Robert Thirsk, Marc Garneau, Dave Williams and Julie Payette. Front row, from left to right: Chris Hadfield, Bjarni Tryggvason and Steve MacLean. (Credit: CSA)

Find out more about our former Canadian astronauts and their careers.

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