Steve MacLean, the second Canadian to have ever walked in space, is the new head of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Industry Minister Jim Prentice, who is responsible for the CSA, made the announcement Tuesday.

"Dr. MacLean is a modern hero and is very highly respected among academic, industrial and international partners," Prentice said in a press release.

"His appointment as President is evidence of the government's commitment to leverage Canada's space science and technology to position Canada as a leading space faring nation."

The 53-year-old has served on both Columbia and Atlantis and has the distinction of being the first Canadian to have operated the Canadarm2.

In 1983, MacLean was selected as one of the first six Canadian astronauts.  He first entered space while part of the Columbia mission in 1992.

In 2006, while on space shuttle Atlantis, MacLean successfully completed a six-hour spacewalk at the international space station.

The only other Canadian to have walked in space was Chris Hadfield in 2001.

During his career, MacLean has held several high-level positions including chief science adviser for the ISS and director-general of the Canadian Astronaut Program. He has also worked for NASA.

He takes over at the CSA for Guy Bujold, who has served as president since last January.

"His leadership during this time of transition has been very valuable to the CSA," said Prentice.

MacLean will help move "the CSA forward on a long-term space plan, as Canada prepares to enter a new era of space exploration and development," the written statement said.

The CSA is responsible for co-ordinating all civil, space-related policies and programs on behalf of the federal government.

The Agency is involved in four main areas -- earth observation, space science and exploration, satellite communications, and space awareness and learning.