Marcos Pontes

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Marcos Cesar Pontes
Marcos Pontes.jpg
AEB Astronaut / Astronauta
Nationality Brazilian
Status Active
Born (1963-03-11) March 11, 1963 (age 55)
Bauru, São Paulo, Brazil
Other occupation
Fighter pilot
Rank Lieutenant-Colonel
Time in space
9d 21h 17m
Selection 1998 NASA Group
Missions Soyuz TMA-8, Soyuz TMA-7
Mission insignia
Soyuz TMA-8 Patch.png

Marcos Cesar Pontes (born March 11, 1963) is a Brazilian Air Force pilot, engineer, AEB astronaut and author. He became the first South American and the first Lusophone to go into space when he launched into 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. He currently lives in Houston with his wife and two children.

Early life[edit]

Pontes was born in the town of Bauru, in the southeastern state of São Paulo. His father Vergílio was a servant of the Instituto Brasileiro do Café, currently extinct, and his mother Zuleika was clerk of the Rede Ferroviária Federal (RFFSA), also extinct.[1]


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 for more than 2000 hours in 25 different aircraft. 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 Technological Institute, or "ITA"), which he transferred to in pursuit of a childhood dream to become an astronaut. 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 spaceflight 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 the Express Pallet budgetary concerns from the Brazilian counterpart. During the delay Pontes ran a campaign to hasten the Brazilian government to complete the Express Pallet, and 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.

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.

On September 2, 2005, an agreement which cost about US$20 million between the governments of Brazil and Russia 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 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.

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 for the development and fabrication of the Brazilian parts for the ISS. Pontes entered to 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 open an educational foundation and a tourism agency, together with the future Brazilian space tourist Marcos Palhares, who will be traveling to space through of the Virgin Galactic.[2][3][4][5]

Future plans[edit]

Pontes announced his intent to visit space for a second time. In his 2011 book Missão Cumprida, he also declares he is interested in a possible candidature for a unespecified political post in Brazil.


Besides his work as an astronaut and Air Force commander, Marcos also authored four books:[6]

  • 2011 - É Possível! Como Transformar seus Sonhos em Realidade ("It's Possible! How to Make Your Dreams Come True")
  • 2011 - Missão Cumprida: A História da Primeira Missão Espacial Brasileira ("Mission Accomplished: The History of the First Brazilian Space Mission")
  • 2012 - O Menino do Espaço ("The Space Boy")
  • 2015 - Caminhando com Gagarin ("Walking with Gagarin")

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


Marcos received those awards through his career:

Brazilian military[edit]

Award By Year
Order of Aeronautic Merit Brazilian Air Force
Santos Dumont Medal of Merit Brazilian Air Force
Bronze Military Medal Brazilian Air Force
Sivler 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)
Honrous Mention - Department of Mathematics Technological Institute of Aeronautics
Honrous Mention - Department of Mechanics and Orbital Flight Technological Institute of Aeronautics
Honrous 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
Hero of the Russian Federation Russian Federation
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
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

See also[edit]


External links[edit]