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'Scotty' beams at the arm

The Canadarm robot has boosted national pride and showcased Canadian technology for more than two decades. In space, the arm emblazoned with a Canada logo and flag first twitched to life aboard a shuttle in 1981. We look back at the arm grabbing errant satellites, helping fix the Hubble telescope and shaking hands with its robotic cousin, Canadarm2.

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Actor James Doohan, famous for playing the excitable chief engineer "Scotty," on TV's Star Trek, has beamed down to Ottawa. Doohan, the Canadian son of a scientist, inspects a model of the Canadarm at National Research Council headquarters. He raves about Canada's enterprise. It's amazing, he says in this CBC Television clip, that such a vast country with relatively little money has pulled off this "fabulous" feat.
. James Doohan was born March 3, 1920 in Vancouver. He spent his early years there and in Sarnia, Ont. He left home at age 19 to join Canada's Armed Forces where he became an officer. During the D-Day invasion of France, Doohan was hit in the leg and the hand by German machine-gun fire. He lost the middle finger on his right hand.

. Before finding stardom in the United States, Doohan was a busy actor in Canada. He performed many roles on CBC Television and Radio, including an intrepid rocketship captain on the children's TV show Space Command. His proficiency for accents kept him in demand. Later, Doohan sounded Scottish on Star Trek from 1966 to 1969. He reprised the Scotty character in many of the subsequent Star Trek movies, faithfully serving Captain James T. Kirk - played by fellow Canadian William Shatner.

. The NRC originally hoped that Doohan would visit its headquarters in November 1981, to coincide with the arm's first test in space. He was unavailable then but expressed interest in seeing the facility and learning about the arm. It was almost a year later that he finally made the visit.

. In the clip, Doohan refers to the NRC's work on a "new eye." He was likely referring to the Artificial Vision Unit. The AVU was an early version of what became the Advanced Space Vision System. The Canadian-built device provides shuttle astronauts with better vision in the difficult viewing conditions of space. The vision system, first used in 1992, is particularly important during delicate docking and satellite retrieval procedures.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: Oct. 22, 1982
Guest(s): James Doohan
Reporter: Dian Duthie
Duration: 1:32

Last updated: January 27, 2012

Page consulted on November 7, 2014

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