• Roberta Bondar with camera on Banks Island

    Dr. Roberta Bondar, seen here with camera on Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic, has been invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour in the nation. (Photo courtesy Roberta Bondar)

The first Canadian woman to go to space has received Canada’s highest civilian honour. Dr. Roberta Bondar was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada Wednesday by Governor General (and fellow Canadian Space Agency astronaut) Julie Payette.

There are three levels of achievement within the Order of Canada: Member, Officer and Companion. Members and Officers may be promoted within the Order in recognition of their continued service to Canada. Bondar has been an Officer of the Order of Canada since 1992.

Bondar’s citation notes her contributions to spaceflight and medicine and her ongoing efforts to promote environmental sustainability through the Roberta Bondar Foundation:

As a scientist and environmental advocate, Roberta Bondar continues to inspire Canadians. Following her pioneering spaceflight, she remained active in international space medicine, notably leading a research team at NASA that drew connections between astronauts’ recovery from microgravity and neurological illnesses on Earth. A world-acclaimed photographer, she has demonstrated commitment to environmental sustainability through her stunning works that reconnect people to our natural world. Leading by example with the establishment of her eponymous foundation, she is a champion of education and the environment.

Bondar, who is an Honorary Vice-President of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, was recently a guest on Canadian Geographic’s Explore podcast, where she reflected on her remarkable career so far.

“Exploration is not something you retire from,” she says. “It is a part of one’s life ethic.”

Listen: Roberta Bondar on Explore

Two other exceptional Canadians were invested as Companions of the Order of Canada alongside Bondar: Ottawa-born classical pianist Angela Hewitt, and the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, Canada’s longest-serving Chief Justice and the first woman in the role.

The late Louie Kamookak, acclaimed Inuit oral historian and also an Honorary Vice-President of the RCGS in the final years of his life, was posthumously invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Established in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Order of Canada recognizes outstanding achievement and service to Canada in a wide range of fields, from academia to philanthropy to the arts.

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Photographing whooping cranes in Wood Buffalo with Roberta Bondar
Discover Canada through Roberta Bondar’s lens