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 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 victory 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.[2][3]

Marcos Pontes
Ministro Marcos Pontes (cropped).jpg
Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation
Assumed office
January 1, 2019
PresidentJair Bolsonaro
Preceded byGilberto Kassab
Personal details
Marcos Cesar Pontes

(1963-03-11) March 11, 1963 (age 56)
Bauru, SP, Brazil
Political partyPSL (Since 2018)
PSB (2013–2018)
OccupationFighter pilot, astronaut
Military service
AllegianceBrazil Brazil
Branch/serviceCoat of arms of the Brazilian Air Force.svg Brazilian Air Force
RankTenente-Coronel FAB.gif Lieutenant colonel
Marcos Pontes2.jpg
StatusRetired [1]
Space career
NASA astronaut
Time in space
9d 21h 17m [1]
Selection1998 NASA Group
MissionsSoyuz TMA-8,
Missão Centenário, Soyuz TMA-7
Mission insignia
Soyuz TMA-8 Patch.png Missão Centenário (insignia).png Soyuz TMA-7 patch white.png

Early lifeEdit

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 careerEdit

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]


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]

Investigation by the Military ProsecutorEdit

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 September 2017, documents were released by The Intercept newspaper and showed alleged membership of the company Portally Eventos e Produções. In August 2018, after the investigation had already prescribed, the appeal was filed by the Minister Rosa Weber.[17]


Besides his work as an astronaut and Air Force commander, Marcos also authored four books:[18]

  • 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 numerous awards through his career.

Brazilian militaryEdit

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
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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Astronaut Biography: Marcos Pontes". Retrieved Aug 28, 2019.
  2. ^ Gonçalves, Carolina (October 28, 2018). "Bolsonaro confirma quatro ministros para seu governo" (in Portuguese). Agência Brasil. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  3. ^ "Astronauta Marcos Pontes diz que aceitou convite para ser ministro de Ciência e Tecnologia" (in Portuguese). G1. October 30, 2018. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  4. ^ "Fundação Astronauta Marcos Pontes - Biografia". Retrieved Aug 28, 2019.
  5. ^ Emerson Kimura (2009). "Made in Brazil O Brasil na Estação Espacial Internacional" (in Portuguese). Gizmodo Brazil. Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  6. ^ "G1 > Brasil - NOTÍCIAS - Brasil está fora do projeto da Estação Espacial (ISS)". Retrieved Aug 28, 2019.
  7. ^ Rohter, Larry (Apr 8, 2006). "Brazil's Man in Space: A Mere 'Hitchhiker,' or a Hero?". Retrieved Aug 28, 2019 – via
  8. ^ a b "Webpage Astronauta Marcos Pontes - Atividades Atuais". Retrieved Aug 28, 2019.
  9. ^ "Fundação Astronauta Marcos Pontes". Retrieved Aug 28, 2019.
  10. ^ "Agência Marcos Pontes Turismo de Aventuras para a Vida". Agencia Marcos Pontes. Retrieved Aug 28, 2019.
  11. ^ "Marcos Palhares - Escritor de Aventuras, Palestrante e Empresário". MARCOS PALHARES: PALESTRANTE, EMPRESÁRIO, ESCRITOR, EXPLORADOR, AVENTUREIRO. Retrieved Aug 28, 2019.
  12. ^ Salvador Nogueira (2006). "Pontes quer fazer segundo vôo em 2009" (in Brazilian Portuguese). Folha de S. Paulo. Retrieved 26 June 2019.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  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. 2018-10-07.
  15. ^ "Bolsonaro anuncia astronauta Marcos Pontes para Ciência e Tecnologia - Notícias - Política". Política.
  16. ^ "Um ministro em órbita". Agência Pública.
  17. ^ "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. November 22, 2018. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  18. ^ "Webpage Astronauta Marcos Pontes - Livros Publicados". Retrieved Aug 28, 2019.

External linksEdit