July 20, 2009 was a red letter day at the Canadian Air and Space Museum at Toronto’s Downsview airport. Hundreds of history-minded fans gathered at the museum to reminisce about that unforgettable day 40 years ago when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped from their lunar excursion module onto the moon’s surface — the first “men on the moon”.
The crowd at the CASM included Canadian astronauts Roberta Bondar (STS-42 1992) and Bjarni Tryggvason (STS-85 1997). Veterans of Avro Canada who attended included the great James C. Floyd, chief design engineer of the Avro Canada Jetliner and CF-105 Arrow.
From aboard the International Space Station, Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk sent his own message via video downlink; and former Avro Arrow team member John Hodge, later a top NASA mission controller, spoke to us live via Skype connection. Representatives of the aerospace community reflected on Canada’s illustrious aviation and space heritage, then mused about what the future might hold. Apogee Books publisher, Robert Godwin, em-cee’d the whole thing.
Along with spaceflight historian Chris Gainor and Ross Maynard (son of Owen Maynard, an Avroite who excelled at NASA after cancellation of the Arrow), Bondar, Tryggvason and Floyd fielded questions from many enthusiastic fans. Their podium was flanked on one side by the CASM’s magnificent Avro Arrow mock-up, on the other by the airworthy replica of the Silver Dart, which Tryggvason had flown at Baddeck in February.
A few hours after everyone had dispersed from Downsview, came some nifty “icing on the Apollo 11 cake”. At 2207 hours the ISS, with the Shuttle Endeavor docked to it, appeared high over Toronto in one of the best such fly-overs ever enjoyed in these parts. Among the crowd of 13 astronauts aboard the ISS were Canadians Bob Thirsk (TMA-15 and on a 6-month ISS mission) and ISS visitor Julie Payette (STS-127). Thanks to the CASM, July 20, 2009 certainly goes down as one of the top dates on Canada’s Centennial of Flight calendar.