President Steve MacLean to Leave Canadian Space Agency

©NASA

CSA President Steve MacLean.

SpaceRef has learned that Canadian Space Agency President Steve MacLean is leaving the agency to pursue a job with a new venture by Research in Motion's co-founder Mike Lazaridis. The announcement was made today at an all hands meeting at the agency.

MacLean was appointment President of the Canadian Space Agency on September 1, 2008 after a successful career as one of Canada's first astronauts.

MacLean will be leaving the agency at a time when its budget is being scaled back, but after the RADARSAT Constellation Mission was approved and fully funded.

MacLean was selected as one of the first six Canadian astronauts in December 1983 and began training in February 1984. He would be a member of two missions into space, the first in 1992 as Payload Specialist for Mission STS-52 and the second in 2006 as a mission specialist on STS-115. On that mission he became the first Canadian to operate Canadarm2 and also became the second Canadian to walk in space.

MacLean will leave the agency effective February 1 to begin work in his new position where he will be leading a team pursuing breakthrough scientific research and development in the highly specialized field of quantum physics according to the Canadian Space Agency.

Industry Canada issued a statement late today by the Honourable Christian Paradis:

"On behalf of the Government of Canada, I wish to thank Dr. MacLean for his commitment to public service and to his efforts in advocating the value of space technology and exploration."

"Over his impressive career, Dr. MacLean has made significant contributions to Canada's leadership role in space. As one of Canada's most accomplished astronauts and as President of the Canadian Space Agency, he has supported space innovation and demonstrated his passion for science literacy."

"I want to personally thank him for his dedicated work and wish him all the best in his future endeavours."

Updated at 5:51 p.m. ET.