Students eagerly awaited the arrival of Dr. Marc Garneau on 3 October 2014. Dr. Garneau is not only the first Canadian to enter space, but he is also our school’s namesake. During his visit, Dr. Garneau gave a presentation regarding his experiences as a naval engineer, astronaut, as well as a Member of Parliament.

Dr. Garneau celebrated the 30th anniversary of his first space flight on 5 October 2014. Initially a naval engineer, he was thirty-four when the astronaut program in Canada was created.

The world’s space program had begun in 1957, when the Soviet Union had launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik 1. This event led Canadian scientists to believe that they could build their own satellite and send it out into space to study the ionosphere. Thus, the Alouette-1 was born.

“Canada is one of the leading space countries in the world. We have done an amazing number of things to contribute to the space programs of the world. The reason we went into space was because of the northern lights – the Aurora Borealis. Canadian scientists had looked up into the night sky and wondered what caused the lights to appear,” said Dr. Garneau.

Dr. Garneau describes the ___. Photo: Natalie Mallari

Dr. Garneau describes his experiences as an astronaut. Photo courtesy of Natalie Mallari

In 1962, Canada finally went into space when the Alouette-1 was launched, the third country to do so after the Soviet Union and the United States. In 1984, the life of Dr. Garneau and the history of Canada’s space program changed when he became the first Canadian in space.

When Dr. Garneau spoke of his experiences in outer space, he highlighted his moments of reflection and contemplation about the fragility of our planet. He said, “Looking down at Earth gives a tremendously different feeling than looking at a picture. What this makes you realize, more than anything else, is that this is your planet, and that there are seven billion people in over two hundred countries who call this planet home. It is the planet that we, all of us, share together, and that maybe we need to do a better job of taking care of it. You realize that there really is nowhere else for us to go. For better or for worse, we are humanity here on planet Earth. This is our planet, and when you look at it from space, you realize that you are not just Canadian, you are a member of Earth, and we all have to work together to save it.”

When asked whether one should try to improve Earth or find a new planet, Dr. Garneau replied, “I would like to think that we will find a way to keep this planet going, to keep it healthy and peaceful. But at the same time, we should go out and look because I think there is a high probability that there is life out there. So let’s take care of our planet and let’s also explore the universe.”

Many students walked away with positive feelings regarding the presentation. Minhaz Rahman Khan, a Grade 12 student who attended the presentation, said, “I thought the presentation was very educational and gave us a proper insight on what space life is like.”

Currently a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons, Dr. Garneau tries to visit MGCI as often as possible. “Marc Garneau is a beautiful example of people of all ethnicities, cultures, religions, and beliefs working together and trying to live to similar values in terms of respecting the rights and freedoms of others,” he stated.