Canadian Space Pioneer Bruce Aikenhead Passes Away

Bruce Aikenhead takes a flight on the "vomit comet" in 1992. Credit: Okanagan Science Centre.

Bruce Aikenhead, an Officer of the Order of Canada, who worked for 40 years in the aerospace field, has passed away Monday at the age of 95.

SpaceQ learned of the news through a Tweet by formed Canadian astronaut Robert who said “the first group of CSA astronauts did not have a deep background in aerospace. But our program manager did. Bruce Aikenhead became our go-to guy for information. To say thank you, I sent a photo of Shuswap Lake from ISS to Bruce. Bruce passed away yesterday. He will be missed.”

According to his biography at the the Canadian Virtual Museum “Bruce Aikenhead is one of the pioneers of the Canadian aerospace industry with over 40 years’ experience in aerospace engineering and astronaut training development. Aikenheads’s career as a systems engineer led him to work on illustrious projects such as the Avro Arrow, NASA’s Project Mercury, and the Canadarm for NASA’s Space Shuttle program. Additionally, he served as a project engineer for RCA’s ISIS-2 Ionosphere Research Satellite, ‘Hermes’ Communications Technology Satellite and the High Altitude Research Project (HARP) at McGill University. Aikenhead was integral in the development of the Canadian Astronaut Program, where he served as Director-General. Aikenhead was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions to Canada’s space program.”

The CBC’s Bob McDonald, host of Quirks & Quarks, paid tribute to Aikenhead when he turned 90.

He said “you probably recognize the astronaut on the (right) in the photograph below, but Chris Hadfield owes his career in space to the gentleman on the left, Bruce Aikenhead, who hired Chris and the other Canadian astronauts and who was a pioneering founder of the Canadian space program.”

Bruce Aikenhead gives astronaut Chris Hadfield a tour of the Okanagan Science Centre space galleries he curated after he retired. Credit: Okanagan Science Centre.
Bruce Aikenhead gives astronaut Chris Hadfield a tour of the Okanagan Science Centre space galleries he curated after he retired. Credit: Okanagan Science Centre.

“Bruce, who just celebrated his 90th birthday, is one of those behind-the-scenes engineers you seldom see, but without whom major projects would not get off the ground. With a career spanning more than half a century, Bruce has seen the remarkable evolution of Canada’s involvement in the space program from the very beginning.”

You can read the full story on the CBC.

About Marc Boucher

Marc Boucher
Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactice Inc. Boucher has 20 years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 27 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.