Nick Proach of Sechelt has been a model maker most of his life, and like a lot of people of his generation he’s fascinated with space flight.
Those two interests came together in 1971, when as a teen he saw some photos of the lunar rover that was going to be used on the Apollo 15 moon mission.
“I thought this was a really cool looking little buggy – I gotta make me one of these,” Proach told Coast Reporter. “I started shaving down toothpicks and cardboard, got whatever parts I could scrounge up from Corgi toys and models and I made a model of that lunar rover.”
He contacted CBC and CTV to see if they’d be interested in using the model during their TV coverage. CTV not only wanted the rover model, they asked Proach to build a mock-up of the entire Apollo 15 landing site.
That project turned out to be the small step that led to a giant leap in 1994 when Proach and his wife Connie founded Proach Models and turned Proach’s hobby into a full-time business.
“We do all types of aerospace models here. Anything that flies in space is built right here in this shop in Sechelt,” Proach said.
Proach Models also has the distinction of being the first Sunshine Coast company to ever have its products travel to space.
A scaled-down version of a segment of the International Space Station built by Proach was used by the crew of the shuttle Atlantis in 2002 to plot space walks and for in-flight press conferences, and a miniature Soyuz spacecraft accompanied “space tourist” Richard Garriott on his 2008 trip aboard the real Soyuz.
As well as NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, Proach Models has worked on commissions for retired astronauts, SpaceX, aerospace companies, museums, and private collectors.
On July 17, the company is opening its shop and gallery to the public for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The aim is to give the public a chance to learn more about the historic event and to see some of the models in Nick Proach’s own collection.
There will be a replica of Tranquility Base, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down and spent a little less than a day gathering data, taking photographs and collecting samples before lifting off for the return trip to Earth.
Proach has also been busy assembling an eight-foot (2.5-metre) model of the Saturn V, the rocket that powered the Apollo missions, and he plans to have a detailed model of the International Space Station and a fully articulating model of Canadarm II on display as well videos and other models and dioramas.
Proach himself will be on hand to talk about his experiences as a model maker and space historian.
Proach said although space flights don’t get the liftoff-to-splashdown media coverage they once did, the involvement of companies like Space X is getting a whole new generation enthused about the potential of space.
“I’m happy that the space program, particularly in the U.S., has finally gotten to the point where commercial companies can now launch into low Earth orbit and take over those low Earth orbit operations while NASA is doing what it really should be doing and going back to the moon and further out,” Proach said. “I think this captures the imagination of the next generation… Today you probably have more programs, more manned programs, going on than ever before – we just don’t hear about it enough.”
The July 17 open house at Proach Models, 5533 Sechelt Inlet Crescent, runs from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The company is on the web at: www.spacemodel.com.