Taking the Canadian Space Program to new heights
The new President of the Canadian Space Agency has a pretty impressive résumé. He helped develop some of Canada’s cutting-edge space technology, then left the planet to test it.
Dr. Steve MacLean is an adventurer, scientist and leader—all the qualities you look for in an astronaut. In 1983, armed with a PhD in physics from York University and advanced academic qualifications in laser physics, he became a member of the first Canadian Astronaut Corps.
For more than 25 years, Steve has been one of the biggest promoters of Canada’s space program, whether he was globetrotting to consult with other countries, back home giving talks to inspire Canadian youth, or even outside Earth’s atmosphere.
Steve has had the privilege of blasting off into space twice during his career as an astronaut. On both space flights, he proudly showcased Canadian technology that he helped develop.
In 1992, as Payload Specialist on a space shuttle mission, Steve evaluated Canada’s Space Vision System. This computer-based camera system is an important guidance tool that astronauts use to manipulate objects in space. It was used to assemble the International Space Station. According to Neptec, the Canadian firm that developed it, Steve was instrumental in its creation.
His work with Neptec, a company that works closely with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), didn’t stop there, though. He later helped Neptec perfect its specialized laser imaging system, which was mounted on the end of an extended Canadarm, the famous robotic arm of Canadian design. This laser imaging system is being used to conduct the real-time scanning of damage to the space shuttle’s insulating tiles while it is in orbit. This enhances the safety of space missions, especially vital since the tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.
In 2006, Steve made his second trip into space as Mission Specialist, to use the imaging system himself. On this trip, he earned the distinction of becoming the first Canadian astronaut to operate Canadarm 2 and the second to walk in space in order to continue construction of the International Space Station.
From the ground up
Whether working in space or on the ground, Steve has made his influence felt. As Chief Science Advisor for the International Space Station and Director General of the Canadian Astronaut Corps, he tirelessly promoted his vision of Canada as a world leader in space technology. One of his colleagues remarked that Steve “made me feel that I was part of something bigger than myself, something important, something worthwhile.”
In 2007, Steve became Chief Astronaut of the Canadian Astronaut Corps. He brought his expansive vision and his power to inspire to his role as a public ambassador for the Canadian Space Program. But more than just promoting the program, Steve helped build coalitions between Canada’s space community and those of other countries.
Looking to the stars
Throughout his career, Steve has generously shared his knowledge with Canada’s future generations. In fact, the Canadian Library Association has praised his work as a spokesperson. He encourages young Canadians to read by telling them how reading adventure stories inspired him to become an astronaut.
One of Steve’s key tasks as President of the Canadian Space Agency will be to create a long-term plan for the Canadian space program that includes a key role for Canada in space exploration. It’s clear his foresight, creative spirit and adventurous disposition will serve him well in his new role.