Former Canadian astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason passes away at 76

Payload specialist Bjarni Tryggvason of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) shows off the Microgravity Vibration Isolation Mount (MIM) fluid disk. One of five fluid loop experiments (FLEX), this one deals with the growth of resonance patterns (GORP) in gaseous liquid systems. Credit: NASA

Bjarni Tryggvason passed away yesterday at the age of 76 and in the words of his friend and fellow Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, “he was a pioneer, a superb engineer and test pilot, and a beloved friend. As one of Canada’s first astronauts, Bjarni paved the way for all that have followed.”

News of Mr. Tryggvason’s passing was first posted online on Tuesday by his friend and former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin according to collectSpace. Melvin wrote on Instagram, “Rest In Peace Penguin classmate. It was an honor to train and work with you Bjarni Tryggvason. Condolences to the family. Much love.”

SpaceQ contacted Chris Hadfield who had this to say of his friend;

I am surprised and saddened at the news of Bjarni’s passing.

The twinkle in his eye always let you know that he saw the world in a different way – with an engineer’s clarity, a pilot’s perspective, and a humorist’s bemusement.

He was a great and colourful friend – I’m not sure I’ve ever met such a successfully independent-minded person, and feel lucky to have shared life with such a passionate aviator.

He was a pioneer, a superb engineer and test pilot, and a beloved friend. As one of Canada’s first astronauts, Bjarni paved the way for all that have followed.

On Twitter the Canadian Space Agency posted this message and told SpaceQ a statement would follow; “It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that we learned that former CSA astronaut Bjarni Tryggvason has passed away.”

Marc Garneau, also one of the original six astronauts posted on Twitter that “I can’t believe my friend Bjarni Tryggvason is gone. We were both chosen as astronauts in 1983. He was the smartest engineer I ever met and a supremely skilled pilot. He taught me how to fly and patiently corrected me when I got it wrong. He was a fine human being. I miss him.”

The first team of Canadian astronauts was selected in 1983. Back row, from left to right: Ken Money, Marc Garneau, Steve MacLean and Bjarni Tryggvason. Seated: Robert Thirsk and Roberta Bondar. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.
The first team of Canadian astronauts was selected in 1983. Back row, from left to right: Ken Money, Marc Garneau, Steve MacLean and Bjarni Tryggvason. Seated: Robert Thirsk and Roberta Bondar. Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

The Canadian Space Agency also had this to say about Mr. Tryggvason, “(he) was one of the original six Canadian astronauts selected in December 1983. He flew aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on August 7, 1997, as a payload specialist for STS-85. Bjarni was an engineer, a pilot, an educator and an inventor. He applied the highest standard to everything he undertook.”

Mr. Tryggvason was born September 21, 1945, in Reykjavik, Iceland. He graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Engineering Physics in 1972 and then followed this up completing postgraduate at the University of Western Ontario.

The Canadian Space Agency profile on Mr. Tryggvason’s experience reads:

Bjarni Tryggvason was a meteorologist with the cloud physics group at the Meteorlogic Service Canada (formerly the Atmospheric Environment Service) in Toronto in 1972 and 1973. After this, he served as a research associate in industrial aerodynamics at the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory at the University of Western Ontario from 1974 to 1979.

Mr. Tryggvason was a guest research associate at Kyoto University, in Kyoto, Japan, in 1979 and at James Cook University of North Queensland, in Townsville, Australia in 1980. He was a lecturer in Applied Mathematics at the University of Western Ontario from 1980 to 1982.

From 1982 to 1984, Mr. Tryggvason was a Research Officer at the Low Speed Aerodynamics Laboratory at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and was a lecturer at the University of Ottawa and at Carleton University from 1982 to 1992.

Selected as one of the original six Canadian astronauts in December 1983, Mr. Tryggvason trained as a backup payload specialist for the CANEX-2 set of experiments, which flew on Mission STS-52 in October 1992. He was also the project engineer for the Space Vision System Target Spacecraft, which was deployed during that mission.

Mr. Tryggvason also served as the principal investigator for the following projects: the development of the Large Motion Isolation Mount (LMIM) which flew numerous times on NASA KC-135 and DC-9 aircraft; the Microgravity vibration Isolation Mount (MIM) which operated on the Russian space station, Mir, from April 1996 until January 1998 to support several Canadian and US experiments in material science and fluid physics; and of the MIM-2 which flew on STS-85 in August 1997. He was the originator and technical director during the early development phase of the Microgravity Vibration Isolation Subsystem (MVIS), which the CSA developed for the European Space Agency Fluid Science Laboratory for the ISS.

Following the landing of the Space Shuttle Discovery on runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the six member crew poses for a final crew portrait. The landing, at 7:08 a.m. (EDT), August 19, 1997, marked the completion of a successful 12-day STS-85 mission. Left to right are payload specialist Bjarni Tryggvason of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), along with astronauts Stephen K. Robinson, mission specialist; N. Jan Davis, payload commander; Curtis L. Brown, Jr., mission commander; Kent V. Rominger, pilot; and Robert L. Curbeam, Jr., mission specialist. Credit: NASA.
Following the landing of the Space Shuttle Discovery on runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), the six member crew poses for a final crew portrait. The landing, at 7:08 a.m. (EDT), August 19, 1997, marked the completion of a successful 12-day STS-85 mission. Left to right are payload specialist Bjarni Tryggvason of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), along with astronauts Stephen K. Robinson, mission specialist; N. Jan Davis, payload commander; Curtis L. Brown, Jr., mission commander; Kent V. Rominger, pilot; and Robert L. Curbeam, Jr., mission specialist. Credit: NASA.

On August 7, 1997, Mr. Tryggvason flew as a payload specialist aboard Space Shuttle Discovery on Mission STS-85. His primary role was to test MIM-2 and perform fluid science experiments designed to examine sensitivity to spacecraft vibrations, in order to develop a better understanding of the need for systems such as the MIM on the International Space Station (ISS), and to study the effect vibrations have on the many experiments performed on the ISS.

In August 1998, he was invited to take part in NASA mission specialist training held at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. His class underwent two years of physical and academic training, and marked the first group of astronauts to be trained as both mission specialists for the space shuttle and as potential crewmembers for the ISS.

Following completion of mission specialist training, his NASA duties included serving as a crew representative for the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL), which is used to test shuttle flight software prior to onboard use. He also supported integrated simulations on the ISS Training Facility at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and served as a CSA representative on the NASA Microgravity Measurement Working Group and on the ISS Microgravity Analytic Integration Team.

From mid 2001 to 2003 he worked in the private sector while on leave from the CSA. He returned temporarily to work at the CSA in 2004 and currently holds the position of visiting professor at the University of Western Ontario.

He has written more than 50 published papers and holds three patents.

NASA STS-85 Day 01 Highlights

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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