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.

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)

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

Asia Youngman (right) is pictured shooting another short film she wrote and directed titled Hatha. (Luba Popovic)
Peachland set to star in fantasy thriller film about N’xaxaitk’w — a.k.a. the Ogopogo

The film will follow an Indigenous teen as she navigates peer pressure, bullying and identity

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Earls On Top at 211 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna. (Google Maps photo)
Downtown Kelowna’s Earls ordered closed after COVID-19 transmission

Earls on Top on Bernard Avenue will be closed from June 18 to June 27

Danny Fulton receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 27. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Drop-in COVID-19 vaccine clinic planned for Kelowna

Clinic at Kelowna Secondary School from June 22 to 24 from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Most Read