Piano-playing astronaut becomes Canada's new governor general

Scientist was the first Canadian on the International Space Station

Former astronaut Julie Payette takes part in a news conference announcing her appointment as Canada's next governor general, in the Senate foyer on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
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The first Canadian astronaut on the International Space Station has been named as the country’s next governor general.

Julie Payette, 53, will take over the largely ceremonial role as the UK Queen’s representative in Canada in September when the incumbent retires. She will be the fourth woman to hold the 150-year-old position.

The appointment of the multi-talented scientist - she speaks six languages, plays the piano and holds a commercial pilot’s licence - has been widely welcomed in Canada.

She is best known for becoming the first Canadian to board the international space station in 1999 on the first of her two missions into space.

As she accepted the position standing alongside prime minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday, she recounted how she looked down on Canada from a spaceship. “You get to see a lot of amazing details,” she said.

Trudeau said that her work in space - she flew on two shuttle missions - made her qualified for the mission.

"Ms. Payette's life has been one dedicated to discovery, to dreaming big and to always staying focused on the things that matter most," Trudeau told reporters.

Modern Canada emerged from British colonial rule in 1867 and the UK’s Queen Elizabeth remains its monarch. The governor general is Canada’s official head of state in the absence of the Queen and her role includes swearing in the prime minister.