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May 25, 2016

As a diehard technocrat, I find all things to do with technology fascinating and I passionately investigate and learn all I can to better appreciate the science and magic that makes these innovations so exciting.  Not everyone shares my passions for technology; some of my closest friends, and even my spouse, shun technology, or fear it outright.  I am very confused by these odd responses.  To me, it is all very simple, and generally it is all easily comprehensible.  Yet to others, it is foreign and might as well have been from alien worlds with instructions written in Klingon.


An Apollo -Soyuz Command Module Capsule

The science of space exploration falls into my magic technology category.  I love all things to do with space travel.  It may be because I was a child raised mostly in the 60s and 70s, when space travel was headline news: the race with the Russian Cosmonauts, the landing on the moon, the rescue of the Apollo 13 crew, and more.  These were indeed heady times for all youth to watch television as the late, great Walter Cronkite described it to us in intricate detail for each and every noise and action.


Walter Cronkite of CBS News, the Voice of the Space Program

So, one day in the mid 80s, early in my broadcast technology career, when I was sitting in the San Francisco Airport waiting for Air Canada to complete my business trip with a flight back to Toronto, I had an experience of a lifetime.  The public address system paged Senator John Glenn to pick up the white courtesy phone for a message.  A gentlemen sitting next to me stood up, walked over to the wall-mounted white courtesy telephone, and spoke into it.  I thought, oh my god, is that really the great John Glenn?  When he completed his call, he returned to his seat beside me.  I had to ask and sure enough I had been sitting next to the legend himself for over 30 minutes and did not realize it.  I spoke to the Senator for about 45 minutes more until they called my flight.  Of course, this would be the day that Air Canada was on schedule, go figure.  His United flight was getting ready too.  So, we parted ways.  He was a true gentleman and easily and casually entertained me with stories of his space exploits.  I was in total awe and amazed with my good fortune to meet him.


Gene Cernan, Jim Lovell, with Bob Hoover – AirVenture 2011

Over the years, I have met eight more astronauts at various aviation events, including at AirVenture, held annually in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  They say that over 600,000 people travel to Oshkosh for the one week of the year to embrace all aspects of aviation, including space flight.  Astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and even from the Space Shuttle eras can be found in Oshkosh.  For example, in 2011, I attended a talk by Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan and had the honour to shake their hands.  They romanced the audience with their calm descriptions of their exploits in space travelling to the moon.  I have had the privilege to shake hands with Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, Frank Borman, and more.  Sadly, I never had the opportunity to meet the most famous astronaut of them all, Neil Armstrong, who passed away four years ago.  Most of these space legends are now in their early to late 80s or have already passed away.  So, time is running out for me to meet more.


The Honourable Marc Garneau, Canadian Astronaut

Yesterday, I was thrilled to meet astronaut number 10, a younger astronaut who is retired from the Canadian Space Agency and is currently the federal Minister of Transport Canada, The Honourable Marc Garneau.  He is an amazing Canadian with a rich and diversified legacy that continues to grow in his new role.  With 677 hours logged in space, Dr. Garneau completed three Space Shuttle missions and even went to the International Space Station.  He is a real Canadian hero and as I observed yesterday, another educated, polite, and sophisticated gentleman with a warm personality and a sincere generosity to share a moment with a wide-eyed fan.   Garneau is of the Space Shuttle generation, which is when space travel started to lose its lustre and no longer earned front-page news headlines other than for disastrous events.  But, for passionate techies like me, every Shuttle mission was just as exciting as the early Mercury and Gemini flights.

Space Shuttle Last Stop

I once toured inside this 747 at the NASA-Ames Airshow in 2003

According to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), they define a spaceflight as any flight above 100 kilometres (62 mi).  By this definition, 536 people from 38 countries have been to space.  In the most elite categories, only 24 people have travelled beyond the low earth orbit, and only 12 people have actually walked on the moon.  I am delighted to say, that I have met some of these elite astronauts, and luckily, there are still hundreds more for me to meet in the future.  You have got to love technology and space technology is perhaps the coolest of it all.


Here is my list of astronauts that I have had the privilege to met so far in my life.  Of the ten, four are Canadians and six are from the United States.  Two of them have walked on the moon.  While many of the shuttle astronauts have been to the space station, they have not been assigned to live there.  I only deem that I have met them only if I say hello face-to-face and have shaken their hands with an introduction.  Several other astronauts have been seen on stages, but not personally met, so they cannot be added to my list yet.  In a few cases, I have enjoyed longer discussions with a few astronauts, more than just simple introductions.  It is an honour for me to have met them all, they are true aviation heroes.


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About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies. He is a Senior Executive, Internet of Things Lead with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 11 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN:TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO:TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX:TSX.V).  He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisers of four different Colleges in Ontario as well as for 16 years on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.  He holds three Masters level degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.