Born in Taber, Alberta in 1954, aerospace historian Chris Gainor grew up in Alberta and moved to BC in 1974 to study history at the University of BC, where he was editor of The Ubyssey. He has been interested in space exploration, and has written extensively on that topic for a number of publications in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. He has also worked in the communications field in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Victoria.

With his Master of Science degree in Space Studies, Gainor has examined why plans to build Canada's own jet fighter planes were cancelled in 1959, less than a year after the first test flight, in Who Killed the Avro Arrow? (Folklore $18.95). Essentially the Diefenbaker government stopped the Avro Arrow project after Conservative Defence Minister Pearkes visited his U.S. counterpart, Neil McElroy, in Washington, and was told the U.S. government would not purchase any Arrow jets and the U.S. government would sell U.S. interceptors to Canada at a lower price than the Arrows.

The decision to halt production, made on the 50th anniversary of J.A.D. McCurdy's first powered aircraft flight in Canada with the Silver Dart, led Avro engineers south to work in the U.S. aerospace industry and play key roles in putting the first NASA astronauts into space and the Apollo landings on the moon, an exodus Gainor has chronicled in Arrows to the Moon: Avro's Engineers and the Space Race (Apogee 2001).

Chris Gainor's extensive research into the history of space travel has produced To a Distant Day: The Rocket Pioneers (University of Nebraska Press 2008), which chronicles humankind's attempts to leave the earth behind. From Chinese gunpowder-powered rocket experiments to the launching of Sputnik, to the first human space flight in 1961, the book familiarizes readers with dreams of space travel spanning over half a millennium. "The Greeks are generally credited as being the first to think of humans taking flight," he writes, "and the first to suggest that there are other worlds to visit. The myth of Daedalus and his son Icarus involved a winged escape from a blockaded Crete. But Icarus died when he flew too close to the sun, and the wax holding his wings together melted." Gainor cites Socrates who reputedly said, "Man must rise above the earth--to the top of the atmosphere and beyhond--for only thus will he understand the world in which he lives." Gainor traces the solitary advances made by America's great pioneer of rocket development, Robert H. Goddard, the aviation experiments of Hermann Oberth and early German rocketry, the progress made by Wernher von Braun and the Nazis, the further progress made by von Braun and the Americans and the little-known Russians who pioneered sputniks and muttniks.

In The Bomb and America's Missile Age (Johns Hopkins 2018), Christopher Gainor examines the US Air Force?s (USAF) decision, in March 1954, to build the Atlas, America?s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) designed to quickly deliver thermonuclear weapons
to distant targets, generating a crucial threat to Russia during the Cold War. ICBMs also carried the first astronauts and cosmonauts into orbit. Gainor first recalls how guided missiles were created before and during World War II, then follows the evolution of both Soviet and American rocket programs.


The Bomb and America's Missile Age (Johns Hopkins University 2018) $49.95 978-1-4214-2603-7

Arrows to the Moon: Avro's Engineers and the Space Race. (Apogee Books, 2001)

Canada In Space: The People & Stories Behind Canada's Role in the Exploration of Space (Folklore Publishing, 2006)

Who Killed the Avro Arrow? (Folklore Publishing, Edmonton, 2007). 978-1-894864-68-8

To a Distant Day: The Rocket Pioneers. (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) 978-0-8032-2209-0

[BCBW 2018] "Space" "Aviation"