WASHINGTON — The president of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is leaving the organization after a little more than a year on the job to take another government position, the Canadian government announced Oct. 29.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Walter Natynczyk would become the government’s new deputy minister for veterans affairs. The move is effective Nov. 3.
“It has been an honor to serve as President of the Canadian Space Agency,” Natynczyk said in a statement posted on the CSA website Oct. 29. “No matter where I am, I will continue to support Canada’s space program.”
Natynczyk is a retired general who served more than 30 years in the Canadian army. He retired in 2012 as chief of the defense staff, the second-highest-ranking position in the Canadian armed forces.
In August 2013, Harper appointed Natynczyk as president of the CSA, a move that surprised many as Natynczyk had little experience with space issues during his time in the military. In speeches months after taking the job, he acknowledged his lack of experience and expertise on space issues.
“I have no background in space,” he said on a panel at the Heads of Space Agencies Summit on Exploration, held by the International Academy of Astronautics in Washington in January. “When I started this job five months ago, I could barely spell space.”
His tenure was marked by the release of a national space policy framework earlier this year that outlines several general principles for national space activities. Those principles included commercialization, international partnerships, and research and developing of key technologies, such as remote sensing and space robotics, where Canada has traditionally excelled.
“It was really important in terms of determining how we move forward,” Natynczyk said of the space policy framework in a presentation at the International Astronautical Congress in Toronto Sept. 29.
CSA Vice President Luc Brûlé will serve as interim president of the CSA until Harper selects a permanent successor. Brûlé will be the fourth person to lead the CSA on either an interim or permanent basis since the beginning of 2013.