Meeting out of this world

Retired aerospace engineer Bruce Aikenhead gives retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield a tour of the space centre

  • Oct. 11, 2013 7:00 a.m.
Retired aerospace engineer Bruce Aikenhead

Retired aerospace engineer Bruce Aikenhead

A Canadian space pioneer whose contributions have helped thousands of Okanagan youth explore the great beyond was celebrated in style Saturday.

Local dignitaries, family members, volunteers, and some very special guests gathered at the Okanagan Science Centre Saturday to celebrate the career and 90th birthday of Bruce Aikenhead, a Canadian space pioneer. The private event was the culmination of a Community Memories project grant awarded to the Science Centre by the government of Canada to capture and digitize Aikenhead’s life story, career, and reflections for the online Virtual Museum of Canada.

Aikenhead, a professional engineer, was involved in many ground-breaking projects in aviation and space flight, including the Avro Arrow, Project Mercury (NASA’s first human space flight program), the Canadarm, and training Canada’s first astronauts.

“After retiring to Salmon Arm, Aikenhead spearheaded the science centre’s Space for Space galleries, and designed the Planetarium, which remains one of the Centre’s most popular programs,” said Sandi Dixon, OSC executive director.

Aikenhead was introduced by MP Colin Mayes, representing the federal Canadian Heritage department, Mayor Rob Sawatzky, and Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield, who met Aikenhead on his first day at the Canadian Space Agency after being selected in 1992.

“Hadfield reviewed highlights of Aikenhead’s career and noted that it was the work of Aikenhead and his colleagues that enabled him to become the first Canadian to command a spaceship,” said Dixon. “Hadfield also commended Aikenhead’s work for the Okanagan Science Centre after recounting an experience at his own local science centre as a nine-year-old boy that inspired him to pursue being an astronaut.”

The Virtual Museum exhibit ‘Bruce Aikenhead: A Canadian Space Pioneer’ will be available to view online at www.virtualmuseum.ca pending publication later this month, and at a permanent kiosk at the OSC.