About Benoît Laplante, our commander
Benoît Laplante has been part of the Rio Tinto team for more than 30 years and is currently a Procurement Business Partner for Rio Tinto. In addition to his career in corporate purchasing administration, he has had a completely different journey since 1998 in the wonderful world of space, where he is a space mission specialist and pilot.
This passion for aviation and space has been passed down from father to son. Benoît grew up during the first space flight programs in the United States—the Mercury and Gemini missions which enabled NASA to make its first spacewalks. From an early aged he was interested in rockets and lunar modules and dreamed of going into space as an astronaut, but it seemed out of reach. So, he turned to a professional career in administration. But fate had other plans!
In 1996, Benoît met Chris Hadfield, an astronaut from Canada, on an airplane flight. The Canadian astronaut was returning from his first space mission, which was docking the American shuttle Atlantis with the Russian space station Mir. He was the first Canadian mission specialist to visit Mir station. The two space enthusiasts immediately bonded and developed a solid friendship. In fact, it was Chris who proposed that Benoît become an ambassador for space missions. Benoît did not hesitate for a second to accept! In order to accept the role, he had to obtain his commercial pilot license and study aerospace engineering at the University of Texas. He accomplished all of this, while still continuing his job with Rio Tinto.
Thanks, Commander Ben!