Marcos Pontes

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Marcos Pontes
Official portrait as senator
Senator for São Paulo
Assumed office
1 February 2023
Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation
In office
1 January 2019 – 31 March 2022
PresidentJair Bolsonaro
Preceded byGilberto Kassab
Succeeded byPaulo Alvim
Personal details
Born (1963-03-11) 11 March 1963 (age 61)
Bauru, São Paulo, Brazil
Political partyPL (2022–present)
Other political
  • DEM (2009–12)
  • PSB (2013–18)
  • PSL (2018–22)
OccupationFighter pilot, astronaut
Military service
Allegiance Brazil
Branch/service Brazilian Air Force
Rank Lieutenant colonel
Space career
NASA astronaut
Time in space
9d 21h 17m[1]
Selection1998 NASA Group
MissionsSoyuz TMA-8,
Missão Centenário, Soyuz TMA-7
Mission insignia
Scientific career
FieldsSystems Engineering
ThesisPolarization effects on infrared target contrast (1998)
Academic advisorsAlfred W. Cooper, David D. Cleary (thesis)

Marcos Cesar Pontes (born 11 March 1963) is a Brazilian Air Force pilot, engineer, AEB astronaut, politician and author. He became the first South American and the first Lusophone to go into space when he docked onto the International Space Station aboard Soyuz TMA-8 on March 30, 2006. He is the only Brazilian to have completed the NASA astronaut training program, although he switched to training in Russia after NASA's Space Shuttle program encountered problems. After Jair Bolsonaro's election as President of Brazil in 2018, Pontes was officially nominated to be Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, a post which he accepted days later and assumed when Bolsonaro's government began.[2][3] He left the post on 31 March 2022 and in the same year was elected federal senator for his state, São Paulo.

Early life[edit]

Pontes was born in the town of Bauru, in the southeastern state of São Paulo. His father Vergílio was a civil servant of the Instituto Brasileiro do Café and his mother Zuleika was clerk of the Rede Ferroviária Federal (RFFSA).[4]

Air Force and Space career[edit]

Marcos Pontes in the US lab of the International Space Station
Astronauts Marcos Pontes and Jeffrey N. Williams (center), and cosmonaut Pavel V. Vinogradov, take a break from their training at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, days before their launch on a Soyuz spacecraft.

Pontes is one of the most experienced jet pilots in the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), where he holds the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and has flown more than 2000 hours in 25 different aircraft[clarification needed]. In June 1998, he was selected by the Brazilian Space Agency to train in the NASA space program after he acquired a space-related background in the Aeronautical Engineering division of the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica (the Aeronautics Institute of Technology, or "ITA"). He began NASA training in August 1998 and qualified as Space Shuttle Mission Specialist in December 2000. He attended the Naval Postgraduate School of the US Navy in 1998.

Initially, Pontes' maiden space flight was scheduled to be on a Space Shuttle, where he was to help transport the ExPRESS Pallet, which would have been the International Space Station's first Brazilian-made component, into orbit. Negotiations between NASA and AEB (the Brazilian Space Agency) fell through due to budgetary concerns. During the delay, Pontes ran a campaign to pressure the Brazilian government to complete the Express Pallet, and he worked on technical assignments in the Astronaut Office Space Station Operations Branch at NASA. His flight was postponed indefinitely when AEB confirmed that it could not produce the Express Pallet and its components for NASA.[5][6]

On September 2, 2005, an agreement between the governments of Brazil and Russia was reached which provided for Pontes to train at Star City, near Moscow, to learn about the Soyuz's operational and life-support systems, and to fly to the International Space Station in March 2006. The agreement, which cost about US$20 million[clarification needed] was signed by the presidents of the Brazilian and Russian space agencies, Sérgio Gaudenzi and Anatoli Perminov, respectively.

Pontes' flight coincided with celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont's successful flight of a fixed-wing airplane in Paris in October 1906.

On March 30, 2006, Pontes became the first Brazilian and the first native Portuguese-speaking person to go into space, where he stayed on the International Space Station for a week. During his trip, Pontes carried out eight experiments selected by the Brazilian Space Agency. He landed in Kazakhstan on April 8, 2006, with the crew of Expedition 12.[7]

Following the Soyuz mission, Pontes returned to his technical duties for the International Space Station Program at the Johnson Space Center, working with FIESP/SENAI-SP on the development and fabrication of the Brazilian parts for the ISS.[citation needed]

Pontes entered the reserve of the Brazilian Air Force and awaits a new space mission. He is also an Invited Researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo at São Carlos. He is an ambassador of UNIDO and WorldSkills. Pontes opened an educational foundation and a tourism agency together with the future Brazilian space tourist Marcos Palhares, who will be traveling to space through the Virgin Galactic.[8][9][10][11]

Pontes announced his intention to visit space a second time back in 2009.[12][8]

Political career[edit]

In his 2011 book Missão Cumprida, he also declared that he is interested in a possible candidacy for an unspecified political post in Brazil and he tried to be elected as "Deputado Federal" during the 2014 São Paulo gubernatorial election.[13] In the 2018 São Paulo gubernatorial election he was elected side with Major Olímpio as second alternate in the Senate.[14]

In October 31, Jair Bolsonaro announced that he would be the next Minister of Science and Technology.[15] This choice left the scientific community with polarized opinions, ranging from how the public sees the profession of astronaut in connection with science and the fact that the minister is not an active scientist and researcher, in addition to concern about his lack of political articulation.[16]

Minister of Science[edit]

After the disclosure of data on deforestation in the Amazon by INPE, discredited by Bolsonaro,[17] Marcos Pontes called the then President of Inpe Ricardo Galvão to address the way he has been acting in the media and also declared to share "...the strangeness expressed by our President Bolsonaro...".[18] no matter how much he doesn't believe the data to be false.[19]

On August 7, 2019 the resignation of Ricardo Galvão was published[20] after his resignation on August 2.[21] He was exonerated at the request of Bolsonaro.[17] Directors of research centres linked to the Ministry asked Pontes to intercede on behalf of Galvão, something that did not happen.[22]

Military Darcton Policarpo Damião was chosen to take over Inpe on an interim basis.[21]

In July 2020, he tested positive for COVID-19.[23]

In a survey published by Veja magazine in October 2021, it was revealed that the minister had made 107 international trips, had stayed 1 in 3 days away for travel among his nearly 1000 days in office, had spent more than R$500,000 (US$ 100,000), and was the minister in the Bolsonaro government who traveled abroad the most.[24] This travel expense becomes relevant after he criticized the government for cutting R$600 million (US$ 200,000,000) from the Science and Technology Ministry.[25]


Besides his work as an astronaut and Air Force commander, Marcos also authored four books:[26]

  • Pontes, Marcos (2010). É Possível! Como transformar seus sonhos em realidade [It's Possible! How to make your dreams come true] (in Portuguese). Brazil: Editorama. p. 371. ISBN 9788561047917.
  • Pontes, Marcos (2011). Missão Cumprida: A História completa da primeira missão espacial brasileira [Mission Accomplished: The complete history of the first Brazilian space mission] (in Portuguese). Brazil: Chris McHilliard. p. 561. ISBN 9788564213012.
  • Pontes, Marcos (2012). O Menino do Espaço [The Space Boy] (in Portuguese). Brazil: Chris McHilliard. p. 60. ISBN 9788564213067.
  • Pontes, Marcos (2015). Caminhando com Gagarin [Walking with Gagarin] (in Portuguese). Brazil: Chris McHilliard. p. 120. ISBN 9788564213081.

He also writes articles on his website. The main themes are motivation and space travel.


Critics from National Congress[edit]

In 2006, Marcos Pontes returned to Brazil after the Missão Centenário, deciding to enter the Aeronautics reserve. In this sense, the repercussion around the situation became very wide, due to the indignation that was demonstrated by the National Congress. At first, the Palácio do Planalto, AEB (Brazilian Space Agency) and Aeronautics expected that Pontes could offer a stimulus factor to the space program and to new adhesions to the Armed Forces, as well as mentoring and training to new astronauts, justifying an investment of 10 million dollars from the Federal Government,[27][28] strongly defended by the Lula Government, who even talked to the astronaut in videoconference on the International Space Station: "In few moments in the history of Brazil, we were proud of a Brazilian like we are of you. You, when you departed, reminded me of Ayrton Senna with the national flag," Lula said.[29] After the decision for the inactivity of Marcos Pontes' functions, President Lula did not comment on the choice, which had several frustration pronouncements from other congressmen, such as Walter Pinheiro (PT), at the time member of the House Science and Technology Commission; Alberto Goldman (PSDB), congressman for São Paulo in 2006; Orlando Fantazzini (PSOL) and Sérgio Gaudenzi. In the view of politicians, who expected the return of astronaut learning to the Brazilian Space Program, the entity should create protection mechanisms for possible future investments in other astronauts, taking into account that the services funded by the government are not lost in the private sphere.[30][27][28]

Investigation by the Military Prosecutor[edit]

In 2006, Pontes was investigated by the Military Prosecutor to determine whether he had violated Article 204 of the Military Penal Code, which prohibits active military involvement in any commercial activity.[31] In the investigation, the MPM inquired about the website Conexão Espacial, owned by the astronaut's press officer, Christiane Gonçalves Corrêa, then owner of the company Portally Eventos e Produções, about the sale of T-shirts and caps with the image of Marcos from 2002 until the date of his departure. In September 2017, documents were released by The Intercept newspaper, which showed Marcos' supposed status as a partner in the company, but which had always been denied by him. After the extinctive prescription of the investigation, Pontes became a majority partner of the company, with 80% of participation, while Christiane Corrêa kept 20% of participation. The mother of the advisor, who owned about 45% of the shares, left the firm after Pontes joined.[32] In August 2018, after the investigation had already prescribed, the appeal against Pontes was tabled and filed away by Supreme Court Minister Rosa Weber.[31]



Marcos received numerous awards through his career.

Brazilian military[edit]

Award By Year
Order of Aeronautic Merit Brazilian Air Force
Santos-Dumont Merit Medal Brazilian Air Force
Bronze Military Medal Brazilian Air Force
Silver Military Medal Brazilian Air Force
Tiradentes Medal Military Police of the Federal District
Academy of the Air Force Award Academy of the Air Force
Aerial Shot Award 3/10 Aviation Group, Brazilian Air Force
First Place Award Officer Improving School - University of the Airforce (UNIFA)
Honorable Mention - Department of Mathematics Technological Institute of Aeronautics
Honorable Mention - Department of Mechanics and Orbital Flight Technological Institute of Aeronautics
Honorable Mention - Department of Structure Technological Institute of Aeronautics
First Place Award Course and Preparation in Flight - Institute of Aeronautics and Space, Brazilian Air Force

Brazilian (non-military)[edit]

Award By Year
77th Greatest Brazilian of All Time SBT
Honorary Member Bauruense Academy of Letters
Personality of the Decade - 50 Years of Brasília Center of Business and Cultural Integration, São Paulo (CICESP)
Título "Defensor Emérito da Liberdade, Informação e Comunicação" São Paulo Press Association
Commander of the Great Cross - Order of Cultural and Civic Merit Brazilian Society of Heraldics and Humanism
Literary Order of Merit Medal Federation of Academies of Letter and Arts of São Paulo
Personality of the Decade, Order of Merit of Juscenlino Kubitschek Center of Business and Cultural Integration, São Paulo (CICESP)
Dom Marcos Pontes no âmbito interno do Sodalício Brazilian Society of Heraldics and Humanism
Personality of the Decade, Order of Merit of Juscenlino Kubitschek Brazilian Academy of Honours to Merit (ABRAHM)
Commander of the Order of Rio Branco in Official Degree Ministry of Foreign Affairs
National Order of Merit Federal Government of Brazil
Chancellor-Mor of the National Order of Merit of Aeroespacial Aviation and Navigation Brazilian Society of Heraldics and Humanism
Custus Vigilat Medal Municipality of Bauru
Embraer Award Embraer
Título Mérito Legislativo em Educação Legislative Assembly of Amapá
Citizen of Pederneiras Municipality of Pederneiras
Citizen of São José Municipality of São José dos Campos
Citizen of Curitiba Municipality of Curitiba
Citizen of Sorocaba Municipality of Sorocaba
"Milton Martins Merit" Parauapebas Municipal Chamber


Award By Year
Asteroid 38245 Marcospontes Cristóvão Jaques - International Astronomical Union
Yuri Gagarin Medal Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
UNO Ambassador for Industrial Development - UNIDO United Nations Industrial Development Organization
World Ambassador of Professional Education WorldSkills International 2008
Ambassador for Scientific and Technologic Education in Brazil FIRST Foundation
Distinct Graduation Naval Postgraduate School (US Navy)
Commander of Peace of Reserve Forces International Committee for Peace
Blue Beret Honoris Causa United Nations
Prize Galactic Patrol World Embassy of Peace, Geneva Embassy, Switzerland
"Castillo De Oro" Military School of Aviation "Tgral. German Busch", Bolivia
"Aeronautic Merit - Great Master of the Order" Bolivian Air Force
Honorary Member Astronomic Network of Colombia
International Personality - Golden Medal French Academic Society of Arts, Science and Letters
Equestrian Order of Michael Archangel - Knight Commander[33] Royal House of Ghassan

Electoral performance[edit]

Year Election Office Party Coligation Vice/Alternate Votes % Result Ref.
2014 São Paulo Federal deputy PSB Without 43.707 0,21% Lost [34]
2022 São Paulo Senator PL Without Professor Alberto
Sirlange Manga
10.714.913 49,68% Won [35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Astronaut Biography: Marcos Pontes". Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  2. ^ Gonçalves, Carolina (28 October 2018). "Bolsonaro confirma quatro ministros para seu governo" (in Portuguese). Agência Brasil. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Astronauta Marcos Pontes diz que aceitou convite para ser ministro de Ciência e Tecnologia" (in Portuguese). G1. 30 October 2018. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  4. ^ "Fundação Astronauta Marcos Pontes - Biografia". Archived from the original on 17 July 2017. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  5. ^ Emerson Kimura (2009). "Made in Brazil O Brasil na Estação Espacial Internacional" (in Brazilian Portuguese). Gizmodo Brazil. Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  6. ^ "G1 > Brasil - NOTÍCIAS - Brasil está fora do projeto da Estação Espacial (ISS)". Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  7. ^ Rohter, Larry (8 April 2006). "Brazil's Man in Space: A Mere 'Hitchhiker,' or a Hero?". Retrieved 28 August 2019 – via
  8. ^ a b "Webpage Astronauta Marcos Pontes - Atividades Atuais". Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  9. ^ "Fundação Astronauta Marcos Pontes". Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Agência Marcos Pontes Turismo de Aventuras para a Vida". Agencia Marcos Pontes. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Marcos Palhares - Escritor de Aventuras, Palestrante e Empresário". MARCOS PALHARES: PALESTRANTE, EMPRESÁRIO, ESCRITOR, EXPLORADOR, AVENTUREIRO. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  12. ^ Salvador Nogueira (2006). "Pontes quer fazer segundo vôo em 2009" (in Portuguese). Folha de S. Paulo. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  13. ^ Efeito Tiririca: partidos apostam em candidatura de famosos para as eleições de outubro. Acesso em 28/07/2014
  14. ^ "Paulistas elegem Major Olímpio e Mara Gabrilli para o Senado". Senado Federal. 7 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Bolsonaro anuncia astronauta Marcos Pontes para Ciência e Tecnologia - Notícias - Política". Política.
  16. ^ "Um ministro em órbita". Agência Pública.
  17. ^ a b "Bolsonaro confirma que solicitou exoneração de diretor do Inpe" [Bolsonaro confirms that he has requested resignation from the director of Inpe]. 2019. Archived from the original on 4 August 2019. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  18. ^ Carvalho, Daniel; Watanabe, Phillippe (2019). "Marcos Pontes também questiona dados do Inpe e chama diretor para conversa" [Marcos Pontes also questions data from Inpe and calls the director to talk to him.]. Archived from the original on 23 July 2019.
  19. ^ Borges, Manuela (2019). "Marcos Pontes contradiz Bolsonaro e diz que dados do INPE não são mentirosos" [Marcos Pontes contradicts Bolsonaro and says that INPE data are not false]. Archived from the original on 7 August 2019. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  20. ^ Ribeiro, Luci (2019). "Exoneração de Ricardo Galvão do Inpe é publicada" [Resignation from Inpe's Ricardo Galvão is published]. Archived from the original on 7 August 2019. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  21. ^ a b Prazeres, Leandro (2019). "Marcos Pontes anuncia militar para comandar o Inpe interinamente" [Marcos Pontes announces military to command Inpe temporarily]. Archived from the original on 6 August 2019. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  22. ^ Watanabe, Phillippe (2019). "Diretores de centros de pesquisa pediram que Pontes intercedesse por diretor do Inpe" [Directors of research centers asked Pontes to intercede for director of INPE]. Archived from the original on 3 August 2019. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  23. ^ "Marcos Pontes anuncia estar com coronavírus e é o quinto ministro infectado" [Marcos Pontes announces he has a coronavirus and is the fifth infected minister]. UOL (in Brazilian Portuguese). 30 July 2020. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  24. ^ Ribeiro, Bruno (15 October 2021). "Pontes gasta um terço do tempo em viagens que já custaram meio milhão" (in Brazilian Portuguese). Archived from the original on 15 October 2021. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  25. ^ Senado, Rádio (21 October 2021). "Lasier critica reação de Marcos Pontes após cortes na ciência e tecnologia" (in Brazilian Portuguese). Archived from the original on 23 October 2021. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  26. ^ "Webpage Astronauta Marcos Pontes - Livros Publicados". Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  27. ^ a b "Pontes sai da Aeronáutica e vai poder cobrar por palestras" [Pontes leave the Air Force and will be able to charge for lectures]. Folha de São Paulo. 2006. Archived from the original on 26 April 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  28. ^ a b Matsui, Naomi (2018). "Novo ministro, Marcos Pontes foi para a reserva militar aos 43 anos" [New minister, Marcos Pontes went to the military reserve at the age of 43]. Archived from the original on 26 April 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  29. ^ Portinari, Natália (2019). "A outra face de Marcos Pontes, o ministro astronauta" [The other face of Marcos Pontes, the astronaut minister]. Archived from the original on 4 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  30. ^ "Lula não comenta aposentadoria de astronauta; parlamentares criticam" [Lula does not comment on astronaut's retirement; congressmen criticize]. Agência Estado. 2006. Archived from the original on 10 April 2019. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  31. ^ a b "Cinco ministros já anunciados por Bolsonaro são ou foram alvo de investigação" [Five ministers already announced by Bolsonaro are or have been investigated]. O Povo Online. 22 November 2018. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  32. ^ Aragão, Alexandre (2018). "Astronauta e futuro ministro Marcos Pontes negou por anos ser sócio oculto de empresa. Virou dono dela depois que investigação prescreveu" [Astronaut and future minister Marcos Pontes denied for years being a hidden partner of the company. He became its owner after the investigation was prescribed.]. Archived from the original on 29 July 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  33. ^ "Brazilian Minister of Science receives the Order of Michael Archangel" (blog). 27 November 2019.
  34. ^ "Resultado das Apurações dos votos da Eleições 2014 em SP" (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  35. ^ "Apuração das Eleições 2022 em São Paulo" (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 3 October 2022.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation
Succeeded by
Paulo Alvim