Press Release - August 26, 2019

Bruce Aikenhead Planetarium

The Okanagan Science Centre and its staff were greatly saddened by Bruce Aikenhead’s passing. He was a dear friend and a great contributor to our centre. He was the driving creative force behind our Planetarium—the only fixed roof planetarium in the BC interior—and our Space for Space Exhibit. The Okanagan Science Centre is in the process of upgrading our Planetarium and Space Exhibit experience, to be completed in June, 2020. To honour Bruce’s great contributions to the space program, the Canadian Space Agency, and the Okanagan Science Centre, our upgraded planetarium will be named the Bruce Aikenhead Planetarium.

Bruce’s career began as a radar engineer in WWII before becoming a flight simulator engineer for Canadian fighter jets. From there he joined NASA to work on their first manned space flight project: the Mercury Missions.  Following that he worked on the Gemini program, and innumerable space programs over the years. His wide range of knowledge and expertise made the infinitude of space seem small by comparison.

It was Bruce who convinced NASA to partner with Canada for their space shuttle missions, and personally he supervised the development of the Canadarm and the Canadian astronaut program as a result.  Upon his retirement from his position as the Director General of the Canadian Astronaut Program he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.  Ever industrious, he spent much of that retirement on the board of directors at the Okanagan Science Centre meticulously designing our space exhibits and our planetarium.

In his time with us we came to know him for his vision, his dedication, his knowledge, and his kindness. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with him. “My favourite Bruce Aikenhead story was when he was designing one of the pieces in our Space for Space exhibit,” said Jim Swingle, Executive Director of the Okanagan Science Centre. “No one was sure the exact measurement for a model we were constructing, so Bruce called NASA to get the answer.”