Apollo 11 anniversary inspires next generation of astronauts

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Apollo 11 anniversary inspires next generation of astronauts
WATCH: As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for Apollo 11, Canadian astronauts are inspiring the next generation to take off – Jul 20, 2019

Canadian astronaut Dave Williams was 15-years-old when man first stepped foot on the moon. Fifty years later, he still remembers holding his breath while watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin climb out of the shuttle on his black and white television.

“Everyone in our neighbourhood was glued to the television,” Williams said. “Nobody was outside. Everybody was inside watching televisions, seeing what was going on. It was an absolutely spectacular experience.”

Williams was born in Saskatoon but grew up in Montreal. He was seven-years-old when he first fell in love with space. The Apollo 11 mission further launched his fascination with space exploration.

“In those days, I was told it’s impossible to become a Canadian astronaut,” Williams said. “But it made me think of what the word impossible means. We should get rid of that word and, instead of that, think about what we can do to make things possible.”

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Williams defied the odds. The Canadian Space Agency recruited him in 1992, the same time Chris Hadfield, Julie Payette, and Michael McKay were selected.

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Williams’ career led to two space missions and a Canadian record-setting three spacewalks. In his second mission, Williams docked onto the International Space Station, where he used the Canadarm to service and build parts of the station.

Marking a milestone

Williams presented at the Saskatchewan Science Centre on Saturday as part of a cross-Canada celebration that marked the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. His work is now inspiring the next generation of Canadian astronauts, including 16-year-old Abigail Sadowski.

Sadowski first fell in love with space at the age of four. The fascination skyrocketed from there.

“My dad really got me started on that. He was really interested in space and we went out stargazing quite a bit,” Sadowski said.

Sadowski is looking into careers in science, like aerospace engineering and aircraft design. She had the opportunity to meet Williams and talk about his experiences.

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“This is someone that’s an expert in the field, the best of the best and I get to talk to him and ask him questions,” Sadowski said. “That’s a pretty amazing opportunity.”

Williams says a scientist is born from a curious mind and a love of learning. He says he’s excited to see where the next generation will take us in space.

“We have kids here today that are the same age I was when I first dreamt of becoming an astronaut. It’s all about capturing their imagination,” Williams said.

“When we see those first images of a human walking on the surface of Mars that will be the equivalent of what the Apollo 11 landing was like back in 1969.”

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