It’s no small feat to eclipse a crowd of the country’s top explorers, scientists, educators and industry leaders, but eight astronauts have that effect.

Yet when 400 Fellows and supporters of the 85-year-old Royal Canadian Geographical Society gathered at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa for the College of Fellows Annual Dinner on Nov. 19, they were also celebrating the Canadian Space Agency’s 25th anniversary. The astronauts, including Roberta Bondar, Steve MacLean and Marc Garneau, received the Society’s Gold Medal for their part in a quarter-century of scientific research, space travel and major contributions to our understanding of geography.

As Governor General David Johnston, Patron of the Society, said during the award ceremony, “All of you laureates understand what it means to explore, to add to our store of knowledge and to innovate. Many will build upon your achievements, just as you owe a debt to the stargazers who preceded you.”

Johnston officiated at the presentation of eight RCGS awards (see 2014 RCGS AWARD WINNERS, below), including the Lawrence J. Burpee Medal, which went to the Parks Canada team that found Sir John Franklin’s wreck Erebus. The 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition partners were again honoured for their historic discovery, as RCGS CEO John Geiger, Laureen Harper, wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq spoke about the find.

Canadian Space Agency president Luc Brûlé shared the keynote speech, about Canada’s space heritage and role in international space exploration, with the country’s two active astronauts, Jeremy Hansen and David Saint-Jacques. “Together, we’re taking the next step in exploration as we continue to venture further away into the cosmos,” said Saint-Jacques. “And that can inspire the next generation. That’s something the Canadian Space Agency shares with the RCGS: the spirit of exploration and the vision of inspiring young Canadians.”

For pictures from the event, visit