President's Corner

by Chris Gainor, Ph.D., Victoria Centre (

A big reason I joined the RASC in my youth in the 1960s was the space race that culminated in astronauts flying to the vicinity of the Moon and finally landing on it. Thanks to my telescope and my membership in the RASC, I could follow the astronauts in more ways than simply watching TV or reading a magazine. And while the astronauts went no farther than the Moon, I could explore more distant reaches of the Universe with lots of help from my friends in the RASC.
Back in 1969, I belonged to the Edmonton Centre, and we held a Starnight event for the public in late April. Despite a late blast of winter weather that kept our instruments indoors, Starnight was still a success, thanks to the fact that we were showing the official NASA film of Apollo 8’s historic orbits of the Moon at a time when colour TV was a luxury, home video was still over the horizon, and few had imagined anything like YouTube.
Now, 50 years have gone by since that spring when we were looking forward to Apollo 11’s lunar landing in July 1969. While astronauts have been confined to low-Earth orbit since Apollo ended in 1972, NASA has dispatched a fleet of robotic spacecraft to the inner and outer reaches of our Solar System. When the Hubble Space Telescope with its amazing imaging abilities began operation in the 1990s, millions began to appreciate the wonders of the Universe that many of us RASCals already knew. RASC will take a prominent part in this year’s anniversary celebrations of the first human footsteps on another celestial body. Our 2019 General Assembly will take place at York University in Toronto, and our Northcott lecturer will be aerospace historian James Hansen, who wrote the biography of his friend, astronaut Neil Armstrong, that inspired the film First Man. I will be there to talk about the impressive but little-known role Canadians played in the success of Apollo.
This summer will also mark 25 years since Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 struck Jupiter, and we will have David Levy at the GA to launch his new autobiography that is being published by the RASC. The GA will be held jointly with the annual springmeeting of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). We will have many AAVSO presentations on variable stars, and the RASC will present many public outreach activities for space explorers of all ages and skill levels. In line with our decision to move GAs away from holiday weekends, this GA will take place the weekend of June 13 to 16. Since the GA last took place at York University in 2008, two subway stations have been built near the York campus, and facilities at the campus have been upgraded. This GA will be more accessible to more members than ever. Check out our GA website at Although RASC’s 150th anniversary is over, we have plenty to celebrate this year, and the General Assembly in Toronto will be a great place to look back at where we’ve been and look forward to new explorations of our Universe.

Last modified: 
Sunday, March 10, 2019 - 10:23pm