Governor General Appoints Three Space Pioneers to the Order of Canada and Delivers Canada Day Speech

The Governor General announced 105 new appointments to the Order of Canada including three space pioneers; Left to right: Astronaut Roberta Lynn Bondar, cosmologist Neil G. Turok and former Canadian Space Agency President (acting) Virendra K. Jha. Credit: SpaceQ/NASA/Perimeter Institute/CASI.

Just before the Canada Day long weekend, Governor General Julie Payette announced 105 new appointments to the Order of Canada including three people from the space community; Astronaut Roberta Bondar, cosmologist Neil Turok and former Canadian Space Agency President (acting) Virendra K. Jha.

According to the office of the Governor General, the Order of Canada was created in 1967 and is one of the country’s highest civilian honours which “recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation”. The motto of the Order is Desiderantes Meliorem Patriam, meaning  “They desire a better country”. The Appointments are made by the Governor General based on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada.

Astronaut and doctor Roberta Bondar will join the Companions of the Order of Canada for “her contributions to our awareness of environmental sustainability as an educator, patron and internationally recognized photographer, and for her pioneering work in space medicine research.” Dr. Bondar was previously an Officer of the Order of Canada. This is a promotion within the Order.

Receiving an honorary appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada is cosmologist Neil G. Turok, Director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Dr. Turok is not a Canadian citizen which is why is appointment is honorary.

In receiving the honour, Dr. Turtok said in a press release “I am both incredibly surprised and very honoured to be named to the Order of Canada, even though I am not yet a citizen. This never could have happened without the teamwork and support of many people. We are pursuing a powerful ideal together – to discover new truths about nature, to enable brilliant young scientists to blossom, and to share with everyone the wonder and hope that science  brings.” Dr. Turok recently submitted his application for full citizenship.

Dr. Turok was appointed “for his substantial contributions as a scientist in the fields of theoretical physics and cosmology, and for providing new models that test fundamental theories of the universe.”

The third space pioneer who becomes a Member of the Order of Canada is Virendra K. Jha. His appointment is “for his contributions to the Canadian space industry in both the public and private sectors, as an engineer and senior administrator.”

Dr. Jha has had a distinguished career in the space sector working over 40 years at various organizations. His biography, courtesy the International Astronautical Federation, is extensive and it starts in 1972 when he joined the Aerospace group of RCA Limited Montreal, which later became Spar Aerospace Limited. In 1988, he became the Director of Engineering at Spar Aerospace Limited. In 1991 Dr. Jha joined the Canadian Space Agency as Director of the Space Mechanics Group. In 1996 he was promoted to the position of Director General, Space Technologies Branch of the CSA. From 2003 till 2008 he was the Vice-President responsible for Science, Technology and Programs at the Canadian Space Agency. As Vice President, Dr. Jha provided strategic direction, vision and leadership to all core technical sectors of the Agency. From November 2005 until February 2006, Dr. Jha also served as the Acting President of the Canadian Space Agency. He was Chief Engineering Adviser at the Canadian Space Agency until his retirement in 2014.

Dr. Jha recently received the John H. Chapman Award of Excellence from the Canadian Space Agency at the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute ASTRO 18 conference.

A Canada Day message from space

Governor General Julie Payette spoke for about 12 minutes at the Canada Day festivities in Ottawa including a brief call with dual-citizen astronaut Drew Feustel onboard the International Space Station. The video below is queued to where the Governor General begins talking about space. If you want to watch her whole speech then go back to the 1:59:20 mark of the video.

About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactice Inc. Boucher has 18 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 25 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.