Marc Garneau, CC, astronaut, military officer, engineer, politician (born 23 February 1949 in Québec City, QC). Marc Garneau distinguished himself in three distinct fields. As a naval officer with the Canadian Armed Forces, he spent 10 years as a combat systems engineer. As an astronaut, Garneau became, in 1984, the first Canadian in space and, from 2001 to 2005, was president of the Canadian Space Agency. As a federal politician, he has served as Liberal house leader and minister of transport.
Marc Garneau attended primary and secondary schools in Québec City and St-Jean, Québec, and university at the Collège Militaire Royale (CMR) in Saint-Jean and the Royal Military College (RMC) of Kingston, Ontario, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering Physics in 1970. He then studied in London, England, at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, where he received a doctorate in electrical engineering. In 1982–83, Garneau attended the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College in Toronto.
As a naval officer with the Canadian Forces, Garneau spent 10 years as a combat systems engineer, during which time he designed a simulator for training officers in the use of missile systems aboard Tribal-class destroyers. He also contributed to the development of an aircraft-towed target system for scoring the accuracy of naval gunnery exercises. Garneau was promoted to the rank of commander in 1982 and was transferred to Ottawa, where he became an acknowledged authority in the design of electronic warfare equipment and systems.
First Canadian in Space
Selected in December 1983 as one of Canada's first group of six astronauts, Garneau was seconded from the Department of National Defence to begin his training in astronautics. A few months later, he was designated as the payload specialist of the STS-41G mission of the American space shuttle Challenger (5–13 October 1984). He trained with back-up astronaut Robert Thirsk for the mission, which included experiments designed by five Canadian researchers. During this mission, Garneau tested, for the first time, the space vision system designed to provide eyes to the Canadarm, the robotic arm of the shuttle.
Parliament of Canada adopted a law creating the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to co-ordinate all the country's space activities. Garneau left the navy to devote himself entirely to his career as an astronaut. He was deputy director of the Canadian Astronaut Program from 1989 to 1992, and in that capacity provided technical and program support in the preparation of experiments for future Canadian missions.
In July 1992 he was selected for astronaut training with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and reported to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for mission specialist training. After a year of rigorous training, he was qualified to command the orbiter, including the Canadarm, which is often used to deploy or recover payloads in orbit. He also trained to perform extra-vehicular activities.
While at NASA, Garneau was assigned to CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) duties, becoming the first non-American to communicate with the shuttle crew from Mission Control. A veteran of three space flights — STS-41G aboard Challenger in 1984, STS-77 on Endeavour in 1996 and STS-97, also on board Endeavour, in 2000 — Garneau logged more than 677 hours in space. During the STS-77 flight, as a mission specialist, he participated in the flight's main experiment, the Commercial Float Zone Furnace, and retrieved the Spartan satellite from orbit using the Canadarm. He also carried out three experiments for Canada's Aquatic Research Facility and two experiments designed by Canadian students. STS-97 was the fourth American mission to build the International Space Station (ISS). One of the mission's purposes was to deliver the first American solar arrays, which involved carrying, and assembling in space, solar panels and batteries.
In February 2001, Garneau was appointed executive vice president of the Canadian Space Agency, and in November of that year, he was appointed president. He resigned from the position, on 28 November 2005, to run for office in the federal election.
In the 2006 federal election, Garneau was the Liberal candidate for Vaudreuil–Soulanges, a constituency in western Québec, but was defeated by incumbent Meili Faille of the Bloc Québécois. In 2008, Garneau was elected in the Montréal riding of Westmount–Ville-Marie, winning by over 9,000 votes. Garneau was a hard-working and intelligent MP and, despite his lack of political experience, became one of the leading members of Michael Ignatieff’s Québec caucus. In the 2011 election, the Liberals were reduced to 34 seats in the House of Commons, the party’s worst showing ever. Although Ignatieff lost in his riding (and subsequently resigned as party leader), Garneau held onto his seat. He became the Liberal house leader, responsible for his party’s strategies and tactics in the House of Commons.
In 2012, Garneau stepped down as house leader to seek the Liberal leadership. However, he pulled out of the race in March 2013, one month before the leadership convention, saying that he had no chance of beating Justin Trudeau, the eventual winner. Garneau was re-elected to Parliament in the 2015 election, in which the Liberals won a majority. Shortly afterward, he was appointed minister of transport in Trudeau’s Cabinet.
Honours and Awards
Officer, Order of Canada (1984)
Exceptional Service Medal, NASA (1997)
Golden Jubilee Medal (2002)
Companion, Order of Canada (2003)
Chancellor, Carleton University (2003–08)
Gold Medal Award, Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (2006)
Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame (2008)