A film about a Lambton County man’s role in the Apollo moon landing premieres Saturday at the Ontario Science Centre on the 50th anniversary of the historic event.
Lander: From Avro to Apollo tells the story of the late Owen Maynard, an engineer with NASA in the 1960s, and his contribution to the decade-long project to land astronauts on the moon.
The Luna Pictures documentary was directed by Shelley Ayres and Mark Foerster, and features Ross Maynard, a son of Owen Maynard, retired Sarnia astronaut Chris Hadfield, Apollo 10 astronaut Tom Stafford and others.
The 25-minute film will be shown at the science centre in Toronto on Saturday and then daily until Sept. 2.
Ayres and Foerster, who both have backgrounds in television news, are freelancers who have worked on several space-related projects.
“I had always wanted to do a little something around Apollo,” Ayres said.
More than a year ago, she was looking for a Canadian connection and found the story of Maynard and others from Canada who went to work for the U.S. space program after the Avro Arrow jet program was cancelled.
While Maynard died in 2000, Ayres discovered one of his sons, Ross, living near Peterborough, not far from her own home in Whitby.
She contacted Maynard and asked to drop by to talk, and that was the beginning of the film project
“He had so many stories, and so many archival pieces from his dad,” Ayes said. “His dad kept everything.”
Owen Maynard was born in 1924 near Sarnia and attended SCITS before leaving during the Second World War to work as a shipbuilder. He then enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, where he flew Mosquitos and other aircraft.
After the war, he worked at Avro Canada while earning an engineering degree, and eventually worked on the Arrow project.
Maynard was one of several former Avro engineers hired by the U.S. for its space program, and he made some of the first drawings of what would become the lunar module that landed on the moon in July 1969.
He was head of systems engineering for the Apollo program when he left NASA in 1970 to work in the private sector. Maynard returned to Canada after he retired in 1992 and lived in Waterloo.
Ayres said the film she initially thought might be a three- or four-minute “historical vignette” grew in length as they found more and more “voices” for the story.
They include audio recordings Maynard made about his time at NASA.
“He was very humble about his contributions,” but the way he rose through the ranks at NASA showed “he was a very good leader,” Ayres said.
Maynard is referred to as the “Forrest Gump of the lander program,” Foerster said.
“He had his hands in everything. … He was a really tinkerer and thinker.”
While Maynard’s story was largely unknown, it’s familiar to many in the space industry.
“He’s sort of this legend, under the surface, in the lander program,” Foerster said.
Ayres reached out to Hadfield, who knew Maynard and agreed to be part of the film, and Stafford, who told her: “Absolutely, I knew Owen and I’d love to talk about to you about him.”
Ayres and Foerster travelled to Oklahoma, where Stafford has a space museum, to interview the former astronaut who was part of the mission before the moon landing.
“He had all kinds of stories to tell us,” she said.
Ayres said they hope to bring the film to Sarnia.
“We’d love to share it with the community, there.”
Trailer for Lander: From Avro to Apollo