OTD: Marc Garneau becomes first Canadian in space

On today’s date in 1984, astronaut Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space while aboard the space shuttle Challenger.

The first Canadian astronauts were chosen to fly aboard the space shuttle following an invitation from NASA the previous year. By 1992, new recruits had joined the original six-person team, which also included Roberta Bondar, Steve MacLean, Ken Money, Robert Thirsk and Bjarni Tryggvason.


In 2003, as part of its eight-stamp Canadian Astronauts series, Canada Post issued a 48-cent stamp (Scott #1999a) featuring Garneau. Printed by the Lowe-Martin Group on Tullis Russell coated paper, this stamp has General (Ottawa) Tagging. It had a print run of 750,000 stamps.

The stamps were issued in panes of eight (SC #1999).

The stamps were issued in panes of eight (SC #1999).

At the time of the stamp’s release in 2003, Garneau was already a veteran of three space shuttle flights, logging nearly 700 hours in space. In addition to flying aboard the Challenger in 1984, he flew aboard Endeavour in 1996 as well as 2000. He holds a doctorate in electrical engineering and is an officer of the Order of Canada.

Each of the series’ eight stamps were designed by Pierre-Yves Pelletier, who used spherical shapes to evoke the path of an orbit. Depicted on the stamp is a twinkling star, which is found on the Canadian Space Agency’s logo and represents a “productive, energy-producing star, believed to have influence over human destiny,” according to Canada Post. “Its twinkling appearance is the result of holographic hot stamping and micro-embossing.”

Alongside each astronaut is a highlight of his or her mission while the back of the stamp pane provides brief descriptions. The bottom of the pane illustrates the “Canadian space handshake” of 2001, when the Canadarm2 on the International Space Station transferred its launching cradle to the Canadarm on the shuttle Endeavour, with astronaut Chris Hadfield at the controls.

During Garneau’s initial eight-day foray in space, he travelled 3.4 million miles around the Earth in a total of 133 orbits. The crew would deploy the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, conduct scientific observations of the Earth, and demonstrate potential satellite refueling.

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