Select one of the keywords
Canada in Space    by Chris Gainor order for
Canada in Space
by Chris Gainor
Order:  USA  Can
Lone Pine, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Canada in Space, Chris Gainor presents 'The People & Stories behind Canada's Role in the Exploration of Space', interspersed with black and white photographs. He begins by 'looking back at those people who explored space with their feet firmly planted on the ground' - from aboriginal peoples' use of celestial observations (and a fascinating Ojibwa tale of offworld origins) to European's application of astronomy to navigation.

He continues with the development of astronomy in Canada, beginning with a Toronto observatory in 1840, studies of the Earth's magnetic field, and the establishment of Canada's National Research Council in 1925. An interest in space exploration grew in the 20th century, in parallel with developments in rocket science, and Russian and American space programs were established post World War II. In 1962, under the direction of physicist John Herbert Chapman, and in cooperation with NASA, Canada launched its Alouette 1 ionospheric research satellite, the first of many. (It set an impressive record for length of operation in space.) In 1966, the Chapman report recommended the establishment of a Canadian Space Agency, but this did not happen until 1989.

Gainor continues to describe rocket research in Canada under Albert Fia - the Black Brant family of rockets. He talks about Gerald Vincent Bull's research on a swords-into-plowshares use of a cannon to launch a satellite into orbit - the funding dried up, Bull was later prosecuted for breaking the US arms embargo to South Africa, and subsequently agreed to build his supergun in Iraq. He was assassinated in 1990. Next is the politically controversial Avro Arrow (a jet aircraft program cancelled in 1959), many of whose engineers went on to work at NASA. In particular James Chamberlin managed the Mercury and Gemini programs, advocated for lunar orbit rendezvous, and was involved in space shuttle design.

We learn in some detail how other Canadian engineers, including Owen Maynard and Bryan Erb, contributed to the Apollo program, leading to the historic 1969 moon landing. After this major milestone, Canadian involvement in space focused on the satellite communications industry in the 70s, beginning with the Anik (Inuit for little brother) series, and on remote sensing from space. In 1975, a project began to build a large robot arm for use inside the shuttle's payload bay - the 15.2 meter long Canadarm, which has functioned successfully through several shuttle missions (similar equipment is now also used in nuclear reactors).

Finally, Gainor introduces us to the Canadian astronauts - including Marc Garneau (now president of the Canadian Space Agency), Roberta Bondar, Chris Hadfield, and Julie Payette. He tells us that they were part of a new breed of payload specialists, and covers Canadian involvement in the International Space Station, as well as development of Dextre, 'a major advance in space robotics', and continuing development of scientific satellites. I learned a great deal from reading Canada in Space, which offers a fascinating overview of the people and the projects.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews