OTD: Bondar becomes Canada’s first female astronaut

On today’s date in 1992, Dr. Roberta Bondar became Canada’s first female astronaut to venture out into space.

Bondar was only Canada’s second astronaut in space when she participated in the first International Microgravity Laboratory (IML)-I mission on board Space Shuttle Discovery, according to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the organization that oversees Canada’s space program and fuels the nation’s space industry.

“The laboratory was used on several shuttle flights, including but not limited to the IML series of missions,” reads the CSA website. “Spacelab is a fully equipped space laboratory developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) as its contribution to the Space shuttle Program. Spacelab has been used in previous shuttle flights, and will be used for the IML series as well as other scientific missions.”


A CSA mission specialist born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Bondar blasted into space from the Kennedy Space Center on Jan. 22, 1992, beginning an eight-day flight aboard the shuttle Discovery with six other astronauts.

“The STS-042 Mission featured experiments that focused on physiological changes in the weightless environment,” explains the CSA website.

“Subjects of study included: eye motion and the inner ear; the elongation of the spine and back pain; energy expenditure during a spaceflight; the nervous system and changes in the balance system; the separation of certain kinds of molecules and cells from complex mixtures; and finally, the after-effects of spaceflight.”

From left to right: Astronaut David Saint-Jacques; Royal Canadian Mint board member John Bell; astronaut Jeremy Hansen; and CSA President Walter Natynczyk unveil a coin marking the CSA’s 25th anniversary.


In 2014, the CSA celebrated its 25th anniversary.

To mark the occasion, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a Fine silver coin featuring an achromatic hologram that brings the CSA’s work to life.

Only the second hologram coin produced by the Mint, the $20 silver piece features an image of a Canadian astronaut floating weightlessly above the Earth. The astronaut is anchored to a foot restraint on Canadarm2, which bears the Canada Wordmark. In the distance is the cloud-mottled blue surface of Earth backed by the black depths of space. The hologram lends depth and movement to the design as the astronaut seems to float above the Earth.

The coin has a weight of 31.39 grams, a 38-millimetre diameter and a mintage of 10,000.

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