His work is on display in a small museum – not much larger than those original Apollo astronaut capsules – right here in Mile Zero.
Much of Nick Proach’s work is out of this world.
Dawson Creek’s Proach is all about the art and detail behind space model making. While firmly entrenched in models from the real world – Proach is still all about the final frontier.
No Star Destroyers or Klingon Birds of Prey here – Proach is all about real world space, sea, and air exploration.
Bringing his passion for space exploration and history together with self-taught model making skills over the years results in precision accurate scaling and detailing, which transforms a regular space model project into a true work of art.
Proach’s models range in size from a four inch tall model of the first Goddard liquid-fueled rocket – to a 16 foot tall Saturn V moon rocket – to a 28 foot wide communication satellite – it is safe to say Proach’s work is in the literal, and figurative stars.
“I’ve been into the space program since I was a kid. Alan Shepard, John Glenn and more,” he says.
In 1971, a younger Proach built a model of the Apollo 15 lunar rover in advance of the mission launch. He called up a couple of television stations where he lived in Toronto at the time.
“A week before the launch, CTV’s Bob Conroy called me up and asked to see the model. I was given a flight plan, lunar procedures, and asked to create the entire Apollo 15 landing site complete with experiments for use during the CTV’s coverage of the moonwalks.”
He did a number of freelance contracts and by 1994 Proach was launching his spacecraft more full time and focused.
“I started picking up contracts.”
Some of these contracts include work with an Ottawa Aerospace Museum, NASA, the US Air Force, the odd television show and movie, aerospace companies, including Space X, a few astronauts, and a documentary produced by an actor who has played astronaut Jim Lovell One Tom Hanks.
Proach has also met and knows a number of astronauts, including a few of them that actually walked on the moon.
“That first Apollo mission really grabbed me. Those first men on the moon flipped me from building cars and sea ships to spacecraft.”
Some of his space models have been in space, flying in or with their real-life counterparts.
“In 2002 NASA was working on components for the International Space Station, and some of those space station models built for NASA became training components,” says Proach. His work has flown on both the US Space Shuttle in 2002 and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 2008.
“Today 3D printers can really help with creating individual pieces and parts,” he says.
His work is on display in a small museum – not much larger than those original Apollo astronaut capsules – right here in Mile Zero at the B2 Auto Zone on 102 Avenue. Tours of small groups can be arranged by appointment.
For more than 50 years Proach has kept close tabs on Canadian, US, and Russian space programs. He can produce a model of any aerospace subject.
An up close examination of the models brings to reality that astronauts have been to space – in what amounts to a large soup can. Re-entry into the atmosphere could be as harrowing an experience as blast off, with nothing but rocket fuel sending you into orbit.
“Upon re-entry they are going about 25,000 miles per hour. Astronauts accept the risk, and they realize they are test pilots and the risk is something they don’t think much about. They would roll with it and said ‘we had to deal what we had to deal with.’ That’s the way these guys are.”
In 2020 Proach and his wife Connie took off from the Sunshine Coast and splashed down in Mile Zero.
“Another guy I got to know was “the loneliest man in the Universe” – Al Worden, who orbited the moon alone while David Scott and Jim Irwin were on the moon during Apollo 15 in 1971.”
Proach says while there are a fair amount of space models – the market for people looking for these types of models is smaller.
“It is a pretty narrow market – but there are a number of groups that follow the history, and know what happened. Quite a number of customers are in the US. We don’t build too many – then again they are not mass produced,” he says.
A rover signed by the last crew on the moon, Harrison Schmitt and Gene Cernan, sits close by.
The largest model Proach constructed was a project for Expo ’86, a satellite some 28 feet plus in size.
In his shop, Proach has models of the first rocket to ever launch from Cape Canaveral, a USSR Yuri Gagarin model, an Apollo 9 spacecraft signed by the entire crew, a Gemini Spacecraft after splashdown, John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft, as well as some more Modern ones such as the Boeing Starliner and the SpaceX Dragon II spacecrafts, and NASA’s new Space Launch System, the replacement for the space shuttle, which is tentatively scheduled to lift off on its maiden flight to the moon in late August.
“This will make an unmanned trip around the moon, then in about 2 years, a four person crew will go up,” he says.