________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 16 . . . . March 30, 2007


Canada in Space: The People & Stories Behind Canada’s Role in the Exploration of Space.

Chris Gainor.
Edmonton, AB: Folklore Publishing, 2006.
263 pp., pbk., $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-894864-59-6.

Subject Headings:
Outer space-Exploration-Canada-History.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

*** /4


Alouette 1 was designed to carry ionospheric sounding equipment and radiation detectors to add to the trove of information about the Earth's radiation belts. The Canadian team took a conservative approach to building its new satellite, which proved useful late in the process when NASA informed Canadian authorities that the vibrations during launch would be more severe than originally anticipated. Alouette 1 was already strong enough to face the greater buffeting it would experience in flight.

"When we started the program, we knew virtually nothing about the problems of designing and building a satellite," Franklin recalled. "There were no textbooks on the subject. You had to write your own textbook as you went along."

Most people on the Alouette team were young and worked long hours-70 and 80 hours a week," he said. "We tested very thoroughly all the bits and pieces on the satellite." At least one small electrical part gave Franklin "queasy feelings," but the part passed all its testing, so Franklin cleared it for flight.


Canada In Space is divided into 19 chapters covering such diverse topics as the Avro Arrow and astronauts Roberta Bondar and Marc Garneau. It traces the subject from 1839 when Britain set up the Toronto Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory. Similar observatories were set up in other parts of the world. Their purpose was to try and determine how the earth's magnetic field influenced compass readings and weather.

     Most of the book deals with events that took place in the twentieth century, and while most are concerned directly with space, some such as the Avro Arrow aircraft, are not. In many cases, Canada's contribution to the exploration of space was done as part of the American program.

     Canadian astronauts Marc Garneau and Roberta Bondar, for example, would never have gone into space as part of a sole Canadian project. Canada lacked the resources. They benefitted from close Canadian-American cooperation, a major feature of Canada In Space.

     Author Chris Gainor, with a Master of Science in space studies, is well qualified to write a book on space. A member of the Royal Astronomical of Canada, and a fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, he has written much about the subject, including Arrows to the Moon, a history of the Avro Arrow. He is also the International Space Programs Editor for Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly.

     Canada In Space is a well-written, factual, and often fascinating account of Canada's role in the exploration of space. Any Canadian reading it will likely feel a sense of pride in the country's achievements. There is one error not related to space and one that is commonly made by the news media. Gainor wrote "In 1968, Canada elected a new prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau". This is not true. Canadian prime ministers are appointed by the Governor General, the crown's representative, not elected. John Turner, Prime Minister in 1984, for example, was not a member of parliament but was appointed prime minister because he was the leader of the Liberal Party which had won the most seats in the recent election.

     There are many interesting people mentioned in Canada In Space. One of the most unusual is Gerald Bull, a physicist who hoped to build a huge cannon capable of launching satellites into space. Bull was a very controversial man and died at the hands of assassins outside his Brussels apartment in 1980, supposedly because he was helping Iraq to build a super gun with which it could attack Israel.

     There are also many interesting events mentioned in the book. In addition to many success stories about the conquest of space, such as Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon on July 20, 1969, there are accounts of some failures. The most tragic occurred on January 27, 1967, during a rehearsal for the Apollo 1 mission when three astronauts died on the launch pad when their spacecraft caught fire.

     There are few teaching aids in Canada In Space. It does contain a useful list of acronyms used in the book and a list of print, film, and online references. There are functional black and white photographs scattered throughout the book. There is no index, which reduces the book's usefulness. It could however, in spite of this, be used as a text, or for recreational reading.


Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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