OTTAWA - Canada marked a milestone Monday: Marc Garneau blasted into space as the country's first astronaut 25 years ago to the day.
Industry Minister Tony Clement, who's also minister responsible for the Canadian Space Agency, presented Garneau with a pin to mark the occasion at a ceremony on Parliament Hill
"Today's anniversary celebrates the efforts and accomplishments not only of our astronauts but also of our engineers, our scientists, our astronomers and many others," said Clement.
"All Canadians can take pride in the remarkable advances in space technology and space robotics that our country has made over the past quarter century."
The anniversary coincided with another first - Guy Laliberte as Canada's first space tourist.
The Quebec billionaire paid $35 million to spend nine days on the International Space Station. He is also visiting Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk whose six-month stay on the space lab ends Nov. 23.
Garneau, now a Montreal Liberal MP, said he could never have anticipated how far space tourism or co-operation with the Russians would have come in just 25 years.
The astronaut-politician points out that originally there was uncertainty about the future of Canada's space program.
No Canadian Space Agency even existed at the time. It only came into existence in 1989, five years after Garneau's initial trip.
Garneau says the country's future in space appeared to be assured only when Canada signed on in 1986 as one of the partners in the International Space Station.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff called Garneau a hero.
"On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our parliamentary caucus, I offer my congratulations to Marc on this historic day," he said in a statement.