Two old friends: Canadian space pioneer and Salmon Arm resident Bruce Aikenhead and astronaut Marc Garneau reminisce about the early days of the Canadian space program while touring the Okanagan Science Centre in 2014 in Vernon.

Shuswap ‘space pioneer’ dies at age 95, leaves amazing legacy

Bruce Aikenhead would bring astronaut friends like Chris Hadfield to Vernon science centre

Salmon Arm was home to an incredible celebrity, but not one easily recognizable due to his genuine humility.

Bruce Aikenhead “was heralded as a true ‘Space Pioneer,’ and was involved with the Avro Arrow, NASA Mercury and Gemini projects, the Canadarm and finally, as Director General of the Canadian Astronaut Program,” wrote his family in an obituary.

Aikenhead died on Aug. 5 at age 95, a kind, humble man who also happened to be the recipient of the Order of Canada.

He retired to Salmon Arm in 1993.

“Bruce was a wonderful neighbour and a genuine, humble Canadian,” writes Wendy Woodhurst, principal of Shuswap Middle School. “He was always willing to share stories about his work on the Canadarm, the Avro Arrow, and with NASA – and equally happy to talk about his family, and his dog, Jed.”

She recalls her most memorable moment with him. They were walking their dogs together when he nonchalantly mentioned that he had spoken to Bob Thirsk that morning.

”It took me a moment to realize that Bob Thirsk had called him for advice from the International Space Station!”

Read more: Students inspired by space

Read more: Astronaut thrills kids

Read more: Salmon Arm’s space pioneer shares stories

Woodhurst says he voluntarily spoke to hundreds of students in School District 83 who listened intently to his accomplishments, which led to him being awarded the Order of Canada.

“It was a privilege to know Bruce and he will be missed,” she says.

During his visits to the schools, it was clear he inspired students. At Salmon Arm West in 2014, he brought a signed photo of astronaut Chris Hadfield and also spoke to the students about other astronauts he knows well.

His illustrious career included being instrumental in NASA (the National Aeronautics Space Administration) allowing Canada to build the Canadarm for the space shuttle.

He told the students: “That was a lot of work, it took quite a few years. Finally the day came when we were down at Cape Canaveral. It had a sleeve put on it… I suggested we have something to suggest it was from Canada.”

Consequently the word ‘Canada’ was clearly and largely visible in photos from space.

At the end of the talk, the teacher asked who would be interested in a career with the aerospace industry. Ten hands immediately shot up.

Read more: 2011 – Stellar scientist linked to outer space

Read more: 2013 – Meeting out of this world

Read more: 2017 – Friends & Neighbours: Stories out of this world

Bruce Aikenhead will also be missed at the Okanagan Science Centre in Vernon.

Executor director Jim Swingle says he contributed greatly there.

“Bruce was responsible for designing our Space for Space Exhibit, including installing the only Fixed Roof Planetarium in the B.C. Interior at the Okanagan Science Centre. He was a creative force behind our exhibits and a dear friend to the Science Centre. We miss him deeply.”

His family writes in his obituary: “His lesson was about gratitude and he humbly attributed his own accomplishments to ‘good luck.’”

A Celebration of Life will be held at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery on Sunday, Sept. 22 from 1 to 3 p.m.


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Space pioneer Bruce Aikenhead visits a class at Salmon Arm West Elementary in 2014, giving a talk to them that included a little demonstration on gravity. (File photo)

Just Posted

Keremeos RCMP wants to Cram the Cruiser Dec. 19

The annual charity drive supports local food banks.

SOWK MP unsurprised by Scheer resignation

“It’s a very tough job being a leader of a party, and we thanked him for that service,” - MP Cannings

Summerland grape growers issue fundraising challenge

Gerry and Kathy Ryan have donated $5,000 to the Tree of Dreams fundraising campaign

Okanagan Water Board opens floodgates with call for grant applications

Water Conservation and Quality Improvement program open from Armstrong to Osoyoos

Toys for Tots to Teens at South Okanagan secondary school

For the second year Pen High is hosting the annual Toys for Tots to Teens

Video: Magicians and Bubble Wonders highlight Penticton Shriners Variety Show

The annual fundraiser filled the Cleland Community Theatre on Sunday.

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP surprised by Conservative leader’s resignation

Arnold predicts Conservative party will remain united in its quest to become government

Vernon business evacuated after gas line hit

A natural gas line was struck, emergency responders unsure of size

Lug nuts loosened on several vehicles in Vernon

Mischief makers reportedly compromising cars; motorists reminded to check vehicles before operating

Vernon nurse pleads guilty to arson

Guilty pleas related to 2016 arson

Safe donation bins coming to Okanagan streets

UBC Okanagan enginnering students help design bins for non-profits

Former Summerland lifeguard will continue to receive pension benefits

Edward Casavant has pleaded guilty to several child sexual assault and pornography charges

B.C. SPCA seizes dogs chained up outside among scrap metal, garbage

Shepherd-breed dogs were living in ‘deplorable conditions.’

B.C. plane crash victim identified; witnesses describe ‘explosion’

He was a flight instructor, charter pilot and owned an airstrip before leaving Alberta

Most Read