|Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation|
|Assumed office |
1 January 2019
|Preceded by||Gilberto Kassab|
Marcos Cesar Pontes
11 March 1963
Bauru, São Paulo, Brazil
|Political party||PSL (2018–present)|
|Occupation||Fighter pilot, astronaut|
|Branch/service||Brazilian Air Force|
Time in space
|9d 21h 17m |
|Selection||1998 NASA Group|
|Missions||Soyuz TMA-8, |
Missão Centenário, Soyuz TMA-7
|Thesis||Polarization effects on infrared target contrast (1989)|
|Academic advisors||Alfred W. Cooper, David D. Cleary (thesis)|
Marcos Cesar Pontes (born 11 March 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 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.
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).
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.
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.
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 on the development and fabrication of the Brazilian parts for the ISS.
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.
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. In the 2018 São Paulo gubernatorial election he was elected side with Major Olímpio as second alternate in the Senate.
In October 31, Jair Bolsonaro announced that he would be the next Minister of Science and Technology. 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.
After the disclosure of data on deforestation in the Amazon by INPE, discredited by Bolsonaro, 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...". no matter how much he doesn't believe the data to be false.
On August 7, 2019 the resignation of Ricardo Galvão was published after his resignation on August 2. He was exonerated at the request of Bolsonaro. Directors of research centres linked to the Ministry asked Pontes to intercede on behalf of Galvão, something that did not happen.
Military Darcton Policarpo Damião was chosen to take over Inpe on an interim basis.
Besides his work as an astronaut and Air Force commander, Marcos also authored four books:
He also writes articles on his website. The main themes are motivation and space travel.
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, 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. 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.
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. 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. In August 2018, after the investigation had already prescribed, the appeal against Pontes was tabled and filed away by Supreme Court Minister Rosa Weber.
Pontes signing the Baikonur Cosmodrome checkout hotel room, an Astronaut/Cosmonaut tradition
Marcos (center) with his crew members in the Soyuz factory
Greeting guests while at Baikonur on launch day
Pontes inside the Soyuz during launch to the ISS
President Lula during a videoconference with the Brazilian astronaut
Pontes in the Zvezda service module
Marcos received numerous awards through his career.
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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||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|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Marcos Pontes|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Marcos Pontes.|