MONTREAL — Exactly 25 years after Canada’s first astronaut captured this country’s imagination by blasting into space, the country celebrates another extra-terrestrial milestone this week with a unique spectacle planned by Canada’s first space tourist.
Marc Garneau wound up on cereal boxes and had schools named for him after Oct. 5, 1984, when the young naval officer began an eight-day mission on the now-infamous Space Shuttle Challenger.
A quarter-century later, there have been no human visits to Mars or colonies on the moon. But Garneau says it’s still been a pleasant surprise to see how far space travel has come.
As evidence he points to the ever-expanding International Space Station where, this week, a Canadian circus billionaire is preparing to stage a concert in 14 cities around the world from the comfort of his celestial conductor’s chair.
Guy Laliberte is the country’s first space tourist after having plunked down $35 million for round-trip airfare on a Russian spacecraft.
The first Canadian astronaut, now a 60-year-old Liberal member of Parliament, sees the trip as an example of progress. Garneau says he wouldn’t have anticipated space tourism, or co-operation with the Russians, becoming a reality so soon.