What Do We Know of the Canadian Rocket Society? by Frank H. Winter

From The Space Library

Jump to: navigation, search


INTRODUCTION by Frank H. Winter

The following is an historical sketch of The Canadian Rocket Society. That organisation actually had several iterations, the first allegedly dating back to 1942 and the second founded in Toronto in 1948, with a later version reappearing by the early 1960s. However, this is very much a work-in-progress attempt at an overall history since this subject is a lot more complicated and challenging than first appears. Mainly, this is because there are unfortunately many gaps in our knowledge about these groups and the available documentation on them is very sparse. For instance, no copies of the C.R.S. Newsletter of the second iteration of this group can be found. Nor is it known if any of the other iterations similarly published a news letter or journal. Besides this, all the principle individuals involved in these groups have long since passed; nor are we aware of any records or correspondence they may have left. All we have are assorted articles and we are not able to even determine if there were any connections between one CRS group and another.

Nevertheless, we are presenting what we have found so far in The Space Library and also with the hope that there may be some readers out there who may be able to fill in some of the important gaps. By “we,” the author is also referring to Robert or “Rob” Godwin of Toronto and to whom the present writer is most indebted for much of the material contained in this article. The readers who may be able to help us are thus encouraged to contact Godwin and/or the author at rdg@thespacelibrary.com.

As for Rob Godwin’s original interest and writings on the CRS, his research on this topic started in 2010 and afterwards appeared as part of a history paper presented at the 65th International Astronautical Congress), held in Toronto in 2014. This paper, titled “100 Years of Aerospace History in Canada: From McCurdy to Hadfield" was subsequently published in Marsha Freeman, ed., History of Rocketry and Astronautics, Vol 46 of the AAS American Astronautical Society [ History Series, as Chapter 11 ((Univelt Inc.: San Diego, 2016)). It appeared in greater detail later in 2017 online in The Commercial Space Blog on 16 March 2017, as “150 Years of Canadian Aerospace History.”)

Now, because of the above problems, the groups are labeled as CRS group numbers 1 and 2, but we will open with Group No. 2 which was the best known and most prominent.


Almost buried in the issue of the newspaper the Evening Star of Washington, D.C. for 5 September 1948 is the following small item titled “To the Moon?”

“To the Moon? Toronto --- The Canadian Rocket Society is planning to build a rocket it hopes will reach the Moon. Cost is estimated at $ 1,500,000 [worth $ 18,720,000 in 2023, due to inflation, in U.S. dollars], with a launching base costing another $ 500,000 [similarly, now worth $ 6,241,000.00, due to inflation, in U.S. dollars]. The Society says man may be able to fly to the Moon and back in the 1950s. The proposed rocket would be about 200 ft by 50 feet wide at the base, according to Evans [sic.] Fox, retired Royal Engineer captain.”

But this was hardly the only publicity both the CRS and its Moon rocket received during that period. For other coverage, we must turn directly to the Canadian papers. For instance, in its issue of Monday, 7 June 1948, the Toronto Daily Star ran a piece titled “Hope to Reach Moon [and] Make it [a] Rocket Base.” In fact, this article provides invaluable details, on both the Society and its Moon rocket plans. The story is basically a report about the “organizing meeting” of the CRS that was held the previous Saturday, or 5 June 1948, at the Royal Ontario Museum and was attended by about 100 persons. Thus, in all probability this version of the CRS had really started to be formed in the previous month of May of that year, or perhaps earlier. The principle speakers representing the new organization were a “Captain Fox” and a “Mr. Kurt Richard Stealing,” or more correctly, Kurt Richard Stehling, with captain Edward Cecil Evans Fox taking the lead.

(Yet, before discussing this organizing event, we must momentarily skip ahead to another article that also appeared in a Canadian paper, the Victoria, British Columbia Daily Times of 28 June of that year, titled “Islanders Wanted For Rocket Society.” This piece is an “invitation” extended to “all Vancouver Islanders interested in rocket development to become members of the Canadian Rocket Society, formed earlier this month in Toronto.” The article then goes on to make an important added statement as follows: “An outgrowth of the University of Toronto Rocket Society, the new organization seeks to obtain representative membership from all parts of Canada.” Unfortunately though, there are no further comments nor details on the predecessor organization, the University of Toronto Rocket Society, but we can only say is that it was part of the story of CRS Group No. 1 covered below.)

Among other things, Fox proclaimed at the organizing event for CRS group No. 2 that: “Five years ago [in 1943] a rocket could only reach heights of five miles, while today the U.S. Army has sent [captured] German V-2s to heights of 125 miles.” However, this statement was incorrect on two accounts. For one, the first successful test flight of the A-4 that was afterwards re-designated the V-2, achieved an altitude of nearly 60 miles on 3 October 1942, although operationally the rocket would have only been launched for maximum range, not altitude. On the other point, up to June 1948, the U.S. captured V-2s rarely reached 100 miles in altitude in their experimental flights from the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico and mostly they averaged about 70 miles. However, Captain Fox could not be faulted for these errors since even though the V-2 had been deployed in the last months of the war and was recognized as the world’s first large-scale liquid-fuel rocket, it was still relatively new and novel in the immediate post war years to the general public; moreover, finer historical details of its development were not yet adequately recorded when Fox spoke.

Consequently, the public presentations by Fox and Stehling were a curious mix of both the highest optimism about the rocket’s future as a potential vehicle to attain spaceflight and they were both often overly idealistic and impractical in its capabilities at this stage. “It is quite possible that within the next five or ten years [1953-1958]” Fox predicted, that “…we will reach heights of 1,000 to 2,000 miles.”

But as matters turned out, those altitude goals within that timeframe were far exceeded, although not in ways that either Fox or Stehling could have ever imagined. Notably, for example, on 20 October 1957—a little more than a couple of weeks following the Soviet launch of their first Sputnik satellite into a low-Earth orbit and opening up the Space Age—the fifth of the U.S.’s low-cost four-stage, all solid-fuel Project Farside—was launched from a balloon at a high altitude and went much further into space than the Sputnik, reaching some 4,000 miles. However, the vehicle’s payload was very modest, consisting of a scientific instrument package of less than ten pounds. Then, about a year later, on 11 October 1958, the U.S.’s Pioneer 1—NASA’s first spacecraft—was launched by a liquid-propellant Thor-Able rocket and had been designed to fly around the Moon and was thus a true deep space probe, although it failed to achieve its objective but attained a distance of more than 70,000 miles before returning back to Earth where it burned up during its reentry through the atmosphere.

To return to Fox’s 1948 prediction. He additionally foresaw that “...rockets some day may prove of great value to predict the weather months ahead with great accuracy” although he was too vague and did not foresee weather satellite themselves that are, of course boosted by rockets. Then there was also one of Fox’s more bizarre predictions that “…someday the Moon may be used as a rocket base for the defense of democracies.” He was more cautious though, in predicting that rockets would first have to be sent to the Moon as a jumping-point for deeper missions into space that could include rockets “equipped with television cameras” to obtain pictures of other planets. But he was correct in stating that the speed of rockets would have to be greatly increased to seven miles a second (i.e, escape velocity) “to get away from the gravitational pull [of Earth].” (This value, however, was already well known in the literature.) Yet, he was only partly right when he suggested that “This can be [either] done by means of booster rockets [using chemical propellants] or [by] the use of atomic energy” since the latter—up to this day—has not been successfully employed as a primary method of propulsion into space for different reasons.

The other CRS speaker, Kurt Stehling, briefly summed up the CRS's own aims: “We are interested in the peacetime use of rockets, not their development for war—[and] Canada, because of her great open spaces and her supply of uranium, will enjoy a leading place in the development of rockets.” Thus, Stehling likewise favored atomic energy—at least at that time—as a promising form of propulsion over chemical propulsion.

The second leading Toronto paper, the Globe and Mail of 7 June, also covered the CRS meeting of Saturday, 5 June 1948, although referred to it only as a “general meeting.” Nevertheless, this particular article, headlined “Rocket Base on Moon Possible in 10 Years,” is of additional importance in relating the history of CRS group No. 2. Primarily, it more clearly defined the two very different modes of propulsion of the Society's intended Moon rocket: (1), the atomic, or nuclear power plant as the main propulsion of this proposed craft; and (2), its chemical propellant power plant.

“Once atomic or nuclear energy is harnessed,” Fox explained, “a [nuclear] rocket can be built with enough power within itself to keep its jets [exhaust gases issuing from its nozzle or nozzles] firing until it [the rocket vehicle] reaches the Moon….It is possible that this might be achieved a lot sooner than most people believe.”

Yet at the same time, Fox clarified the point that conventional “chemical fuels” were part of the [CRS] plans as well and “...will be used to clear the ship from the ground to prevent precipitation of the deadly nuclear fuel.” Hence, while modern rocket engineering terminology and the technology itself were still in their infancies, he was spelling out that he envisioned a conventional chemical-propellant booster using liquid-propellants to boost the Moon rocket beyond the Earth's atmosphere and at a safe distance that the booster was to presumably be jettisoned, or shut down) so that the nuclear rocket power plant could then safely “kick in” and from there on, propel the Moon rocket far more effectively towards its destination—the Moon. In this way, the effects of nuclear radiation would be prevented from harming Earth's atmosphere. But as we will see, Fox’s plan became greatly modified as he went along and both he and Stehling and others in the CRS were in a “learning curve.”

As for his motive as to why he chose to fix upon a nuclear rocket propulsion system as the primary sustainer power plant for the space vehicle in the first place, Fox boldly proclaimed that: “Nuclear fuel is two million times as powerful as the best existing chemical fuels.” However, this was a vast over-estimation as was his assumption that nuclear propulsion might be achieved “a lot sooner than most people believe” that turned out to be altogether unrealistic. In fact, from 1955 to 1973 the United States Government undertook Project Rover to develop a nuclear thermal rocket engine at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico, initially to power an upper stage for an intercontinental missile in a program partly run by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and afterwards transferred to NASA. But apart from the highly complex technological problems it faced, Rover was always a controversial project, mainly on account of the extreme hazards associated with atomic energy that were exacerbated by its massive expense involved. Ultimately, Rover was cancelled in the latter year after 17 years of research and development and after about $1.4 billion (in 1973 U.S. dollars) had been expended and again, no nuclear-powered rocket has ever flown.

Nevertheless, Fox and others of the CRS persisted with their Moon rocket plans, although they did not always spell it out that it was to use both a chemical-propellant booster plus their much hoped-for nuclear rocket system as an upper and main stage.

Other articles in the Canadian papers of 1948 reveal that both Fox and Stehling next arranged for a far more ambitious plan to publicize their new Society and the Moon rocket. They were able to get a sizable model of the rocket built by one of their members, then 49-year-old Samuel (“Sam”) Charles Kernerman in his basement. Moreover, this model was grandly exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibit (CNE), the country's huge and important annual event that takes place at the Exhibition Palace in Toronto from mid-August to Canadian Labour Day. Held since 1879, the CNE—or affectionately and simply known as “The Ex”—presently attracts approximately 1.5 million visitors each year and remains Canada's largest annual fair and the sixth largest in North America.

To further highlight the cause of spaceflight, the CNE additionally featured a real V-2. Now whether this rocket was part of the CRS’s exhibit or had some “connection” with the CRS in arranging this V-2 to likewise be displayed at the CNE is not fully known. According to Godwin, this rocket “had been smuggled to Canada by some skullduggery at the end of the war. It subsequently vanished and no one knows what happened to it.” (Kernerman, who might have known these details, later died in 2000 at age 101 and according to his obituary in the Toronto Star for 22 October of that year, he was “one of the founders of the Canadian Rocket Society” although we do not know if this was accurate or not.)

A captured V-2 rocket being prepared for display at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in Toronto in 1950.
A captured V-2 rocket being prepared for display at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in Toronto in 1950.

At any rate, in those days before TV had become commonplace, let alone the Internet, the CRS Moon rocket as represented at the CNE was nicely covered by the press. The Globe and Mail (Toronto), in particular, ran a long story titled, “Aim at Trip to Moon From Toronto in 1950s” in their issue of 28 August 1948. This includes a photo of one Lois Humphrey, along with Jack Bird, Vice-President of the CRS and John Wartman, “Provisional Director,” admiring what is only described as “an experimental rocket” although it is clearly a liquid-propellant rocket with a single nozzle protruding from inside of the bottom of the rocket body. Could this have been a model of the Moon rocket? Probably not, since the article says: “Also on display is a demonstration rocket, six feet high and capable of flying and suitable for meteorological tests.”

Model of the CRS rocket displayed at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1948. Pictured are CRS members Lois Humphrey, Jack Bird, and John Wirtman. 'Globe and Mail Aug 28 1948'.
Model of the CRS rocket displayed at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1948. Pictured are CRS members Lois Humphrey, Jack Bird, and John Wirtman. 'Globe and Mail Aug 28 1948'.

Nothing more is said of this so-called CRS “demonstration” rocket, nor even whether it was a liquid or solid-propellant vehicle, nor whether it had ever been flown or not. By the same token, the term “demonstration rocket” is vague. It could imply that the rocket was a non-functioning display model. On the other hand, the statement that it was “capable of flying” more strongly suggests it was re-usable (i.e., recoverable, with a parachute)—may or may not have flown by then. This rocket appears to be about six feet long. Even though it may never have been tried, it would have been Canada’s first rocket capable of meteorological, or upper atmospheric sounding experiments. (For more on the photo in this article, see Section IV. below.)

Photograph of a CRS exhibit at an unidentified location ca. 1948-49 (courtesy Photo Journal - 3rd Feb 1949)
Photograph of a CRS exhibit at an unidentified location ca. 1948-49 (courtesy Photo Journal - 3rd Feb 1949)

The CRS exhibit also included a “scale drawing” of the Moon rocket which, perhaps due to its large size, was shown elsewhere at the CNE--- “in the Special Aircraft Tent, west of the Electrical Building.” Here as well, the original scale drawing has long since vanished.

The Globe and Mail article next went into Fox’s Moon rocket plans in more detail. For one, it is stated that members of the CRS were to appeal to all big manufacturers across Canada “and ask each to produce one of the many complex sections needed. The Society hopes to recruit keen-minded technical men for the task of assembling the rocket and the launch station in Toronto where the flight to the Moon will start.” Fox went on to explain more of the perceived engineering challenges involved.

“The engine in the rocket,” he began, “will be one of the lesser problems and will not be responsible for the high cost...we are hoping to use atomic energy to give us power. But our biggest problem is refrigeration. The ship will have two hulls two feet apart and in between them the space must be kept refrigerated. And it will take a lot of refrigeration. The 240,000-mile jaunt to the Moon takes the ship through a 10-mile layer of heat at 170 degrees Fahrenheit, and when it gets 50 miles from Earth it hits a 25-mile layer of atmosphere at 212 degrees which has been registered on a thermometer on a [captured] V-2.”

Much of what Fox explained underscored how little knowledge he, and fellow members of the CRS, really had then about the possibilities of rocket flight into space and its requirements and complexities apart from the astronomical costs in money and time these developments could take. It was certainly impractical, and even naive of them, to have considered that their Moon rocket would be able to carry a crew of four---plus ten others, for a full complement of 14---besides taking it for granted that the “lesser” problem of their main propulsion was to be “atomic energy” that both Fox and Stehling equally assumed would be developed fairly soon for their planned lunar mission from Toronto. Nothing, by the way, was said about launch facilities.

Fox did not forget to mention spacesuits though, for this mission and elsewhere, he went into a few more details on it. Namely, “it would be similar to those worn by divers, but much lighter, [that] will protect wearers from ultra-violet, cosmic, and other rays,” (thus predicting some of the features of later Apollo suits.) And to his credit, he also accurately determined that the 240,000 mile trip to the Moon would take four days. This very closely matched the time and distance faced by the Apollo missions of three-men each that took place two decades later, starting in 1968 with the Apollo 8 mission of 21-27 December 1968 that successfully orbited the Moon and returned followed seven months later by Apollo 11 of 16-24 July 1969, the first flight to land humans on the Moon and safely return them. (The distance of the Moon from Earth is 238,900-miles, while the duration of each Apollo mission to the Moon took 76 hours, or three days and four hours, and included preliminary Earth and orbits prior to completed lunar landings.)

In sum though, by 1948, the concept of spaceflight itself could only be theoretical since so much of the technology did not yet exist and large-scale liquid propellant rocket technology itself (including guidance and stabilizations systems) was then still basically limited to the V-2 of World War II. Although now taken for granted, rocket “launch sites” by that time were also limited to primitive artillery firing ranges and the like, while our knowledge of the upper atmosphere and the beginnings of “space medicine” (or man’s ability to survive in a space environment) were likewise barely in their infancies and still largely theoretical).

No wonder Fox’s Moon-landing phase of his plans were even more rudimentary as compared to those for his Moon rocket. He could only surmise that the best approach for a lunar landing would be for the rocket ship to turn around on its approach to the Moon backwards, the rocket turning on its “jets” (a now archaic alternate term for rockets, or in this case as retro-rockets) and make a “nice soft landing on its tail.” This, however, was not a new concept by 1948.

Exactly what could be accomplished following a lunar landing mission was far less clear. “Just what men would do when they got to the Moon,” concluded the Globe and Mail article, “is a matter of conjecture. Captain Fox doesn’t have any special ideas except they might find useful metal there or might use it [the Moon] as a jump-off place for trips to other planets where there might be air and life.”

Interestingly, in the Globe and Mail for 23 December 1948 is a further article titled “Lunar Loops Loom” by Bruce West, in which Captain Fox became far more cautious about the cost-side of the Moon trip plans, and may have been due to his evidently wholly disappointing results of his seeking funds from likely companies. Not only had his foreseeable budget for the Moon mission been considerably hiked up from $ 1.5 million to $ 6 million (or $ 74,900,000.00 by 2023, due to inflation), but the anticipated time frame for the mission was moved forward a decade to 1960. But in examining this article more closely, we see that he had now additionally factored in the cost of “an extra ship to be held in reserve for emergencies” (presumably in the event the original rocket ship became stranded on the Moon) and the cost of fuel (though he neglected to spell out the nature of the fuel) at $ 750,000. It was also “difficult,” he noted, “to estimate the labor costs so far ahead.”

At this juncture, we would be remiss if we did not bring in the criticisms that Fox and his group faced by July and August of 1949. This was fully understandable when, as Godwin has found, that this seems to have been the maximum time when the CRS saw newspaper articles on the group from all over the world. There are, he says, over 300 of them and they all look to have been reprints, or were comments upon the same story. Among these international stories on the Society’s space rocket plans during this period is one from the Singapore Free Press for 30 August 1948 and another from the Dagblad voor Amersfoort (of the Netherlands) of 13 November 1948, p. 4. Stories also certainly appeared in Australian papers as well; a very lengthy story, with Fox’s portrait, also appeared in the French-Canadian paper Photo-Journal (Montreal) for 3 February 1949 and headed “Un groupe de Canadiene n'attend que des capitaux pour construire de fuseé que les menera à la lune” (“A group of Canadians are just waiting for capital to build a rocket that will take them to the moon.”)

As one example of the criticisms, The Advocate of Burnie, Tasmania, Australia, for 20 July (exactly 20 years to the day before Apollo 11 landed on the moon) headed their story “Space Travel ‘Highly Problematical,’” and noted that that the CRS spaceship planned to go to the Moon in 1960 “would have to face a rain of meteorites that were traveling at 20 miles per second.” (This, however, was hardly a “new” point of criticism in the history of early spaceflight concepts. Back from 1920 onwards, for instance, the American rocket pioneer Robert H. Goddard faced this identical criticism—as well as many others—about his alleged proposed “Moon rocket,” after the release of his classic monograph, “A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes” which had been published in late 1919 by the Smithsonian Institution.

Yet the Advocate had more to say. A Professor Hartung—probably Prof. Ernst Hurting (1893-1879)—at the University of Melbourne, they reported, thought that space travel was still “highly problematical” because space travel involved “tough engineering” and he believed “could never be done” and other astronomers cited were likewise “doubtful.” (Nobody, of course, could have ever predicted how the Missile Race of the 1950s led to the Space Race, starting with the launch of Sputnik 1, which in turn saw President Kennedy make his famous speech on 12 September 1962 making a safe manned landing on the Moon and bringing him back safely to Earth by the end of the decade as a National priority that was fulfilled by Project Apollo.)

Nevertheless, much to his credit, Kenneth W. Gatland of the British Interplanetary Society came forward with a lengthy article in the Nottingham Post of Nottingham, UK, of 22 August 1949 titled “Men on the Moon by 1960?” in which he offered a sort of rebuttal to some of the criticisms leveled at the CRS during that year. Among some of his points, he said that “A great deal of practical work with rockets is being done today and not entirely with military objectives. Captured V-2 rockets…have been adapted in the United States to gather information from the upper atmosphere.”

He also specifically cited the then astounding altitude record of 250-miles obtained by a much smaller American-designed rocket placed on top of one of these V-2s. (This was “Project Bumper” flight No. 5 of 24 February 1949 in which the considerably smaller WAC-Corporal second stage launched atop the V-2 actually reached 244 miles—still a record that stood for the longest time. From this, Gatland deduced that any “deeper penetrations” (into space) will come” with “multi-stage” rockets as they came to be called. This approach had already been well realized by the founders of astronautics— Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky, Hermann Oberth, and Goddard. But whether Fox was aware of these earlier pioneers by 1949 we do not know.

As for the CRS’s favoring atomic-energy, Gatland was compelled to add that: “The Canadian Rocket Society are probably several years optimistic when they speak of a piloted moon-rocket [using atomic energy, in part, for propulsion], but there is every reason to believe that this will be achieved…”

Still another feature of CRS publicity of this period must be added. That is in a published Canadian National Exhibit program for 1949 discovered by Godwin, there is a most curious brief entry as follows: “Canadian Rocket Society, 323 Brunswick Ave., Toronto—Dr. Goddard Rocket Exhibit—Automotive Building Mezzanine.” Now it is true that there was a traveling exhibit of Goddard rocket artifacts that had started in 1948 at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and went as far as Los Angeles, as sponsored by the Guggenheim Foundation for the Promotion of Aeronautics that led to these rockets being acquired by the Smithsonian Institution by 1950 (and eventually becoming artifacts of the present National Air and Space Museum). But so far, there is no evidence that the traveling exhibit included a stop in Toronto at the CNE, though it is possible. On the other hand, it is more likely that the “Dr. Goddard Rocket Exhibit” was a far more modest CRS display honoring Goddard (whom Stehling greatly admired) and may have only included photos, etc. But further research on CRS exhibit at the CRE is needed.

(Incidentally, the addresses ascribed to the CRS during these years frequently changed—which further add to difficulties in tracing its history. The Victoria Daily Times of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, of 28 June 1948, cited above, for instance, gives it as 108 Bloor Street, Toronto, while a list of known rocket societies published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 9, for November 1950, gives it as 58, Hilton Ave., Toronto 10. Yet more CRS addresses are known.)

At any rate, fortunately for future aerospace historians, Fox did go on to fill in more technical details on the Moon rocket itself in an article appropriately called, “Big Space Ship” which he wrote for the October 1949 issue of Tatternall’s Club Magazine, published in Sydney, Australia. Here, for example, we learn that besides Fox, a CRS “engineering committee” was also engaged in refining the design. This is not all. All told, Fox said, “Ten committees will be at work on the project this year.” (Incidentally, Fox’s title was now “Chairman” of the CRS.)

He added: “Mr. K.R. Stehling, formerly President of the University of Toronto’s Rocket Society, undertook to develop the power plant and it fell to my lot to provide the basic design of the structure,” he went on. “The structure and machinery alone will be about 200 tons.” Also: we learn the central tubular structural member was suggested by a study of the Forth Bridge. [The Forth Bridge is a cantilever railway bridge across the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland and is considered as a symbol of Scotland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.] Tripod landing legs at the base are capable of being thrust through open ports by hydraulic action, electronically controlled, to make a landing possible on uneven terrain [on the surface of the Moon]. Twin hulls allow space for refrigeration and other devices necessary to enable the ship to pass through the ionosphere...”

Titanium, the super light and strong metal, is now mentioned as the new metal of choice for the vehicle that would also feature “thrusters,” or far smaller rocket motors affixed on the spaceship to help maneuver it in space---exactly as are found in modern space vehicles. Fox recommended some 20 motors to drive the ship, although in his now expanded design, beneath these “...will be a series of decks, arranged as follows: storage, refrigeration compartment, passenger cabin, control cabin, structural bulkhead with gyroscopes, and in the nose, an emergency escape cabin, with ribbon parachutes which can be ejected from the main hull.”

But perhaps the most significant “upgrade” of all by this date is found in Fox’s statement: “Our engineering committee has nearly completed the design for a chemical fuel regenerative motor [perhaps he meant motors, plural], self-cooled.” To this he concluded with the following enticing remark: “Other details are not disclosed at present,” though his final words are reiterations about the cost of the project. Clearly, Fox’s Moon rocket concept had greatly matured within a relatively short time and was considerably benefited from rapid advances in rocket and related technologies, some of which were now more readily appearing in the open literature or were acquired by Fox from other sources.

It remains uncertain though, whether Fox and his team had altogether abandoned notions of atomic propulsion as the main mode of power for the Moon rocket in lieu of a chemical propellant system, or whether rocket motors utilizing chemical propellants and regenerative-cooling served that primary purpose, or were only employed in other motors on the ship, since the language regarding the power plant is often ambiguous. Notably, for example, in the short article “Trips to the Moon by 1960” in Current Science for December 1949, it is stated:

“On this side of the ocean [compared to rocketry activities in Europe at the time], considerable publicity has come to members of the Canadian Rocket Society at Toronto. Captain E.J. Evans Fox, visiting New York [City], displayed a blueprint for a 200-foot-long craft driven by nuclear fission with tripod take-off and landing equipment [where, in New York is not mentioned].”

Besides this, there is yet more evidence of his rapid progress in the design of the CRS Moon rocket. For instance, we now learn that water and oxygen for the space travelers could be derived “from the products of combustion.” (This is a strong clue that chemical propulsion was stlll favored, for the booster at least.) It is further revealed that a Mr. Boris Dyke was now the Vice-President of the CRS and was suddenly “in charge of planning” of the Moon rocket. Besides this, the rocket was, in part, to “take advantage of natural gravitational fields” in its mission through space (gravity assist, then a highly advanced idea). Dyke himself noted: while the rocket would cost “only about $ 5 million,” he estimated that “hundreds of millions of dollars will first have to be spent on preliminary research and trials” which was actually a far more realistic approach to the project if it was ever to be carried out. (The project was thus in good hands with Boris Dyke, an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force and a World War II veteran although we cannot learn anything more from him since he passed away in 2004.)

Ad for Canadian Rocket Society meeting March 1949
Ad for Canadian Rocket Society meeting March 1949

In the meantime, the activities of the CRS were not confined to their Moon rocket project. They continued to hold public lectures. The Toronto Daily Star for 24 March 1949 ran a small ad announcing the free illustrated lecture to be held at the University of Toronto and titled “What Are the Other Planets Like?” The lecturer was J.F. Heard, PhD. This was Dr. John (“Jack”) F. Heard, then head of the Astronomy Department of the University and in 1952 and who was to become the Director of their David Dunlap Observatory. (Incidentally, Dr. Heard remained keenly interested in spaceflight since a few years later, during the early days of the Space Age, he delivered the talk “Regarding Sputnik.”) Heard’s lecture was subsequently presented on the Friday evening of 25 March 1949 and was of great influence to the CRS and especially to Captain Fox who was among the 60 CRS members who attended. This is because, according to a Globe and Mail article of 26 March 1949, despite its title, Heard’s talk was not solely focussed upon the astronomical differences between the planets---but potential missions to those planets. Hence, as summed up below, Fox wound up adopting a lot of Heard’s ideas for potential missions to the planets and in effect, Heard caused Fox to greatly alter his plans for the CRS from strictly pursuing the design and construction of a Moon rocket to one that could explore the planets.

It is also in the Globe and Mail for 26 March 1949 that we first learn of the designation of C-1 for the rocket—evidently proudly standing for “Canada-1.”

Three months after Heard’s lecture---by mid-June 1949---Captain Fox and his wife and son took a “vacation and shopping trip” to New York City although the captain also brought with him his blueprint for his space rocket. Presumably, this was to have it ready in the event he could meet potential investors on behalf of the CRS and their plans. We know from a Globe and Mail article of 19 July 1949 that while in New York he met and spoke with the famous aviator and aviation writer of the time, Major Alexander P. Seversky for an hour and showed him the blueprint, as well as alerting the press of his visit.

Evidently nothing came from his discussion with Seversky except that more publicity was generated for the CRS. Now, it was also revealed that Fox had greatly expanded his plans for the rocket that was picked up by the New York Times and appeared in the Globe and Mail for 12 June of that year as well. Again, in actuality Fox was simply adapting a lot of what he had learned from Heard’s lecture. We will now briefly sum up some of the highlights of what is conveyed in that issue of the Globe and Mail.’’

This time Fox explained that the ultimate destinations for the CRS rocket were to be both the planets Mars and Venus and not strictly the Moon. The mode of propulsion remained the same, though he was now determined to make a round trip flight to those planets “in a vast rocket, powered by atomic energy” (but presumably still with a chemical-propellant booster).

“His calculations [or rather, those of Dr. Heard],” the paper continues, embodied “...the apparent paradox that it would take less time to go and circle Mars, than do the same for Venus, and return to Earth, than it would to visit Mars direct and return. Once more, he was contemplating using gravity-assist, especially since those two planets “revolve around the Sun as does Earth counterclockwise...taking advantage of the [gravitational] currents in the whirlpool.”

Cover of Stratosphere Flying by Edward Evans Fox (Aeronautical Institute of Canada 1942)
Cover of Stratosphere Flying by Edward Evans Fox (Aeronautical Institute of Canada 1942)

As for what could be accomplished when those planets were reached, Fox now related that:

“We circle Mars for a few months, observing the planet at close quarters, then, at the right time, jet off for Venus...” Similar close orbital observations would be conducted “and, when their relative positions are right, we drift [maneuver the rocket] back to Earth….”

Fox planned “no stop on either planet on the first voyage. That may be possible on the second [voyage]…We might build the ship [on the Moon]. Because of its lesser gravity we could have a much lighter structure.” (Heard had covered other planets in his lecture, but had stressed---as it was generally believed at the time---that of the planets in our solar system, Mars and Venus were considered to have been most likely to support life and this is why Fox now selected these two as missions for the “C-1.”) However, in the conclusion of the Globe and Mail article, after Fox had returned from New York City, he said: “We haven’t started building [C-1] yet. We have to get the money.” But of course, this never came about.

Nevertheless, further research now tells us that the giant CRS Moon rocket (and afterwards re-planned as a Mars/Venus) vehicle then re-designated the C-1, had actually had earlier roots than is generally believed and even pre-dated the group. One source says the concept showed up in the newspapers as early as November 1946 and Fox—then simply identified as “Edward Fox” (really, Edward Cecil Evans Fox)---was responsible for these plans.

In other words, Fox’s concept had clearly led to his co-founding of the CRS that also came to adopt his scheme. One of the other co-founders, of course, was Stehling. Fox had generated so much publicity with his talk of moon rockets that he appeared on a radio show named "Canadian Cavalcade" (at the time introduced by the popular actor Lorne Greene.) During an interview he stated that he expected men to land on the moon within 20 years and had written an 80,000 word sequel to his published navigation treatise, Stratosphere Flying (Aeronautics): Including Navigation for Emergencies, (Toronto, 1942), but this time for space navigation, although the latter part of that work did not materialize nor has it been found.

But after the rocket’s major showing in the press by 1948, the so-called CRS Moon rocket also became featured in the February 1949 issue of the widely circulated American magazine Science and Mechanics.’’ This article goes into more details and reveals that the vehicle was to be “roughly bullet-shaped” and powered by 20 rocket motors each developing 100 tons of thrust. Moreover, we now hear of a projected launch facility to be erected atop a mountain on Canada’s west coast, “in order to reduce the rocket’s flight through the thickest part of the atmosphere.” In the following month of March 1949, the CRS began more regularly advertising their lectures on spaceflight. We now briefly summarize Fox’s career.


Edward Cecil Evans Fox (ca. 1940)
Edward Cecil Evans Fox (ca. 1940)

Edward Evans Fox (1899-1961) was born in Coaticook, Quebec Canada, in 1899 and became a construction engineer of considerable accomplishments. Notably, in the 1920s he worked for the Dominion Bridge Company and was involved in building both the Royal York Hotel in Toronto and the James Bay extension of the T (Toronto) and NO (Northern Ontario) Railway. Besides this he was a devotee of the French novelist Jules Verne and obviously became enthralled by Verne’s classics, A Trip to the Moon (1860) and its sequel, A Trip Around the Moon (1870) that had appeared in many editions and languages by then. Fox eventually envisioned a modern representation of how a Moon mission might be carried out---although this time with a huge rocket, with many motors, rather than Verne’s method of an extremely large and powerful cannon.

From the Toronto Star for 25 November 25 1946, p. 3, we further learn that: "Mr Fox says he has been amassing facts and figures on space navigation since he first read Jules Verne 40 years ago [in 1906, or, when he was about seven years old]. In 1941 he wrote Stratosphere Flying, a book studied by the USAAF and the RCAF during the war. Another 80,000 word manuscript, on space navigation is on its way to the publishers.” Unfortunately, Rob Godwin has found that this manuscript was never published.

No doubt, Fox had been additionally influenced by the appearance of the German V-2 rocket in World War II. During the war, he was indeed a captain although had not served with the Canadian Air Force, but in the 8th Field Company of the Royal Canadian Engineers. Yet just how Fox teamed up with Stehling to form the CRS is unknown, though it is very likely that Stehling, 20 years a junior to the Captain, sought out the latter and soon met him some time after he had returned from England from his war duties for his native Canada.

We now turn our attention to the background of Stehling.


Kurt Sterling ca. 1948

Stehling was born in the small town of Giessen, Hesse, Germany, in 1919 and as a youngster, as he afterwards recalled, he was initially captivated with rocketry and the notions of spaceflight during the international “rocket and spaceflight fad” that had started in his country in the late 1920s. He well knew of the rocket stunts---including rocket cars and rocket-propelled gilders (utilizing solid-propellant gunpowder rockets of the day)--of the automobile magnate and “sportsman” Fritz von Opel and others. He says he even saw one of these aircraft (although he does not identify which one) fly on the Wasserkuppe, a well known mountain in Germany where glider flights were often made. Then in 1930, he and his family emigrated to Canada, settling in Toronto, although his fascination with rocketry and spaceflight had never waned and he was, he says, an “avid reader” of publications by Hugo Gernsback (whom Stehling later met) such as the “pulp magazines” Amazing Stories that invariably featured “interplanetary stories.”

A few years later, when he attended Toronto’s Central Technical High School, which he had entered in 1934, the teenager Stehling formed his “Rocket and Space Study Club.” He does not pin down the date of that founding in his online interview but does reveal that in 1938 he went so far as to write a letter to Dr. Robert H. Goddard to ask him for advice on how to build a rocket. This correspondence has not been located. Nevertheless, he continued, Goddard’s response was typical of him; the American simply advised the young German-Canadian not to build a rocket. Goddard was naturally concerned with protecting youth wherever they may be from the dangers of such experimentation; Goddard continually received such mail from around the world. At any rate, Stehling proceeded anyway around this time to construct a rocket—the sensible advice from Goddard notwithstanding.

In his interview, Stehling relates that his small rocket was propelled by methane and oxygen—both of which must have been in gaseous form—which means that it was fairly sophisticated for the time and certainly for an 18 or 19 year-old. Stehling went on very enthusiastically to describe how he---presumably with his club teammates---then tried to “test” the rocket in the school’s chemistry laboratory.

The rocket was placed on a special stand, or probably a kind of ramp, aimed toward the outside of a window facing a field. But when it was ignited—-by first opening a “gas pressure bottle” that must have been used to force the propellants into the combustion chamber—the window was unexpectedly found to be closed. Consequently, the ill-fated rocket completely smashed the window, although no bodily harm was inflicted upon the students. Young Stehling was obligated to pay for the replacement of the window. Yet this hardly ended Stehling’s involvement with rocketry. Members of his Club allegedly went on to build and test a few far simpler small gunpowder rockets, although we have no specifics on these. These activities proved interesting enough for a local station to interview Stehling on the radio in 1939.

During 1940-1941, Stehling studied Applied Science at the University of Toronto although the war interrupted his education and it was not until 1948 that he earned a B.A. and won the John Galbraith Prize for his paper "Rocket Propulsion” that appeared in the March 1948 issue of The Engineering Journal.

In the meantime, from 1943, Stehling served in the Canadian Armored Corps in England during World War II, and while on leave in London in the final days of the war in 1945, he heard the tremendous impact of a German V-2 that had crashed nearby. Strange to say, a few years later, during 1949-1955, after he had left Canada and worked professionally in rocketry at the Bell Aircraft Company in Niagara Falls, New York, he got to know Walter R. Dornberger personally. Dornberger, the former military commander of the Peenemünde complex in Germany where the V-2 had been developed, now also worked as a special consultant to the President of Bell Aircraft. Not only that, Dornberger had also been born in Giessen, as was Stehling. (More on Stehling’s later career, including his work for Bell, in Section VIII.)

At some unknown date after the war, Stehling became the founder and president of The University of Toronto Rocket Society though practically nothing is known about this second group started by him, nor exactly how long it lasted except that curiously, it was later strangely renamed the Atomic and Rocket Society. (The latter name is not only cited by Stehling in his videotaped interview but is also mentioned next to his photograph in the Toronto University year book.)

But now we jump to the exact date of 23 January 1948 when Stehling, in his capacity as President of The University of Toronto Rocket Society, attended a very important event called the “Annual At Home Address of the President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada” (RASC), delivered at the University by the astronomer Dr. John W. Campbell. Campbell’s talk, titled “The Problem of Space Travel,” was summarized the following day in the Globe and Mail of 24 January in the negatively titled article, “Moon Trip an Illusion to Space Travel Expert,” which, by the way, added that Campbell’s presentation included his use of 35 mm slides of the V-2, plus displays of various astronomical and navigation instruments such as a “Bubble Sextant, a planisphere (or star finder), and an astronomical compass as employed during the war by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Stehling was thus compelled to openly respond to this piece a few days later in his letter-to-the-editor headed, “Is Space Travel Possible?” as published in the Globe and Mail of the 29th. At this juncture, we can thus take up another crucial historical question in the history of rocketry and astronautics, namely: “What was the attitude during that post-war period towards spaceflight by the scientific community---or rather, the scientific community of Canada---as now represented by the RASC?”

In this letter, we learn that Stehling had not only attended Campbell’s address, but afterwards engaged him in a “short talk.” Overall, Stehling did “not think that Dr. Campbell categorically rejected the possibility of space travel, although he certainly implied this as an almost impossible engineering feat.” Furthermore, Stehling was convinced that “Dr. Campbell has not perhaps had time to keep abreast of some of the latest developments in the science of rocketry.” (Stehling cited advances in new fuels and alloys that were bound to greatly expand the possibilities of the rocket. He also concluded that “If history is any guide, the science of rocketry will be greatly stimulated and improved in the next decade and new vistas of exploration and discovery will be opened up.”)

Fortunately for history’s sake, Campbell’s entire address was afterwards published as a 19-page article, with figures, in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for April-March 1948. Due to space limitations in this article, we can only focus upon his salient points.

First, Campbell offered examples each, of both pro and con arguments on the possibility of spaceflight, the first in the latter category expressed in 1946 by the British Astronomer Royal, Sir Harold Spencer, in which the astronomer is reported to have said: “Man quite likely will never reach the Moon and even if he did, the chances of his returning would be so small as to be negligible. For assuming that the difficulties of launching a lunar landing could be overcome, the landing on a jagged surface such as the Moon would certainly involve disaster, and if the landing were successful there would be no launching platform for his return trip.”

The Canadian astronomer next took up explaining reaction motion though pointed out that there were “no filling stations” in space and “no means of controlling the flight [into space].” But he did outline concepts of the “space station...that was really an artificial satellite,” and spoke of the difficulties in establishing such a station, even at low Earth orbit of 500 miles.

Campbell then covered theoretical “Paths to the Moon” and “Mass Ratios,” the latter topic of which he had written about in the Philosophical Magazine, Series 7, Vol. 31 in 1941 (on pp. 24-34). Yet he also inserted a remark as told to him by an experienced pilot that “Man would be incapable of much functional control at 3 or 4 g...”

He then moved on to the “V-2 Rocket Experience” which he did not find impressive (i.e, the immediate post-war U.S. flights of captured V-2 rockets at the White Sands Proving Grounds). Lastly, Campbell posed the question, “Why Not Use Atomic Energy?” Here, his basic argument was that although the Atomic Bomb had recently unleashed enormous energy, “the momentum of ejected material in an arrangement of a nuclear rocket propelled device “would be moderate.” There also remained the necessity “to insulate the crew [in a manned vehicle] very heavily for protection against radiation.” “So,” he summed up, “the prospect of using atomic energy is not encouraging.” The great overall weakness in these arguments was that, as rightly pointed out by Stehling, Dr. Campbell had indeed, not taken the time to look at the latest advances in rocketry and had limited himself to basing his conclusions strictly on V-2 technology.

Stehling and others were not at all deterred by Campbell’s criticisms, whether they had read them in the Globe and Mail or in the Journal of the RASC and thus in June 1948 he helped form—-or perhaps re-form—-the CRS. In front of a gathering of 100 attendees at the Royal Ontario Museum, both Fox and Stehling led the discussion in which the latter outlined the aims of the newer group as follows: "We are interested in the peacetime use of rockets, not their development for war. We hope to interest the public not only in the mechanical side of rockets but in their social and economic significance."

For all intents and purposes though, a few months later, in the following year, when Stehling moved from Canada to live in the United States, he had cut his ties with the CRS. Information is lacking as to how long Fox remained with the group in Canada. The CRS survived a number of years thereafter since Hillel H. Diamond acquired small commercially-made solid-fuel rockets for the group by the early 1960s which we will cover in Section VII. Now, we return back to Stehling’s earlier connection with the CRS to take a brief look at his design of a liquid-propellant rocket motor for “CRS Rocket No. 1.”Here, we may also add that by 1950 anyway, the publicity on the CRS’s Moon rocket had died down and we only see, for example, a tiny item in the Toronto Daily Star of 6 July 1950 about that project and also a mention that the President of the CRS was then “Hillel Diamond, prominent Toronto violinist.”


Drawing by Kurt Richard Stehling of his design for CRS Rocket No. 1. drawing dated 13 July 1948.
Drawing by Kurt Richard Stehling of his design for CRS Rocket No. 1. drawing dated 13 July 1948.
Restored blueprint of Edward Evans Fox's design for the Canadian Rocket Society's manned lunar rocket (ca. 1948). Known as CRS#1. ©2023 The Space Library
Restored blueprint of Edward Evans Fox's design for the Canadian Rocket Society's manned lunar rocket (ca. 1948). Known as CRS#1. ©2023 The Space Library

Despite the lavish attention given at the time to the so-called CRS Moon rocket, there is only one known and very unique and perhaps only extant drawing dated 13 July 1948 donated many years ago by Stehling to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., titled “Motor Details [of] C.R.S. Rocket No. 1.” But whether, and how this drawing was in any way connected to the infinitely larger and projected C-1 Moon rocket project, we simply do not know. At any rate, the drawing was designed by “K.S.” (who was Kurt Stehling of course) that shows this motor was just 2 ¼ inches in outside diameter and 6 inches long for the combustion chamber. The drawing proper was made by “GAB” who was most likely Gordon Allen Batley, then a “Director” of the CRS during that period as well as a member of the A.S.M.E. (the Association of Mechanical Engineers) and the Association of Professional Engineers.

Now whether this particular small motor—or C.R.S. Rocket No. 1—ever reached the hardware stage or was even used, is also unknown since nothing has been found as yet in print about it; nor is it known if it was perhaps succeeded by a “C.R.S. Rocket No. 2,” and so on. Nor do we know if any liquid-propellant rocket tests at all were ever made by the CRS, group No. 2. Nor is anything known of the intended propellants, besides its expected---or realized---performances.

There are, however, a couple of other possibilities regarding the motor that should not be overlooked. First, since the design dates to 13 July 1948---or, just a little over two months following the Society’s announced highly optimistic plan for a manned Moon rocket appearing in the newspapers---could the drawing perhaps be of a scale model of a motor Stehling was preparing to build and test toward Fox’s full-scale contemplated Moon rocket?

Another possibility seems more likely. That is, if we examine the picture more closely in the article of 18 August 1948 in the Globe and Mail titled “Aim at Trip to Moon from Toronto in 1950s” described in Section I., above, depicting Lois Humphrey, Jack Bird, and John Wirtman looking over an “experimental rocket” of CRS at the CNE event, the single nozzle of the rocket is visible and could very well be of the same 2 ¼ inch outside diameter as in Stehling’s drawing.

Thus, the drawing may show the motor for the rocket placed on exhibit at the CNE---which further means that the rocket at the exhibit was really the “mysterious” CRS Rocket # 1. However, these are only conjectures. Again, whether the rocket at the exhibit was a working (functional) liquid-propellant rocket, or a non-functioning display model only is another matter.

We can lastly remark regarding Stehling’s motor design that there must have been additional drawings because this extant drawing is sheet # 2 of 3 sheets, although the other sheets have long since disappeared.


To this it should be noted that the list given in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society shows the address (in 1950) of the CRS group (No. 2) as 58 Hilton Avenue, Toronto 10, Ontario, Canada, and that a William Cameron was the Chairman of the CRS at that time. H. [Hillel] H. Diamond is listed as the Secretary---whom we more fully cover in Sections VI. and VII.---while the group also produced a “duplicated” bi-monthly C.R.S. Newsletter and consisted of an average of eight pages. Moreover, the number of “Members at 30/9/1950 (approx.)” amounted to 70. (The list, by the way, most interestingly also shows the group was “Chartered,” or registered, in 1949, so this was the official year of its founding although it had really started a year earlier.) The “Grade[s] of Membership[s] for the group were: (a), Sustaining members who paid (annual) subscription rates of $ 10.00, (b) Senior members who paid $ 5.00 annually, and (c) Junior member who paid $ 1.00.

In addition to the Society’s Newsletter, no copies of which have been found to date, they also had a library albeit it must have been a modest one since very few works were then available on both rocketry and spaceflight. (We are aware of this library because Godwin once picked up an “old space book” in a used book store and afterwards discovered that it was stamped as the “Property of the Canadian Rocket Society.”)

Godwin further records that in the same period, or more specifically at the Second International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Congress held in London, during 3-8 September 1951, U.S. Navy Lt Frederick C. Durant, III “...informed the delegates that the Canadian Rocket Society then had over 100 members (apparently making it the fifth largest such group in the world behind the USA, UK, Germany and France) and that they might well be interested in joining the newly proposed International Astronautical Federation. Of the 13 countries in discussion at the Congress, only Canada (through the CRS) apparently did not commit to becoming a founding member of the IAF.” No CRS members are known to have actually attended the Congress that year.

In any case, now we turn to the identity and activities of Hillel Diamond and what we know of about CRS No. 1.


Hillel Diamond (1925-2014) was born in Montreal and afterwards moved to Toronto to study music, although the year is unknown. He was a talented violinist and also played the piano while his wife Tova was likewise a talented musician. Miriam Diamond, one of Hillel’s daughters, can only recall, in an email to Rob Godwin, that her father may have moved to Toronto about 1946 to attend the Conservatory of Music at that city.

According to his obituary appearing in the former online Canadian model rocketry web site named “Rocketry Planet” of 20 February 2011 and authored by a model rocketeer named Fritz Gnass, Diamond was regarded as the “Grandfather of Canadian hobby [model] rocketry.” [Note, however, that this site was taken off line on 15 November 2012.] Nevertheless, although the details are not reported, it is stated that Diamond had an early fascination with rocketry which he maintained all his life and in 1942 he is said have formed a club called the Canadian Rocket Society (that we label as CRS Group No.1) though it is not mentioned where it was formed, either in Montreal or Toronto. But this same source adds that this group had been patterned after the VfR (the Verein für Raumschiffahrt, or Society of Spaceship Travel) of Germany.

However, this is a most odd claim because the VfR had long ceased to exist and had only lasted from 1927 to 1934. Moreover, the date of 1942 for the founding of the original CRS only appears in this particular obituary and nowhere else and may be incorrect and must still be corroborated. (The article “Rocket fans launch eggs…” by Bob Pomerantz in the Sound Star [Toronto] for 22 June 1980 mentioned that Diamond had been “a rocketeer since 1942…” but said nothing further on that matter.) Furthermore, the date of 1942 is also suspect because in that year Diamond was just 17, although that would not have been an impossibility. On the other hand, we must also question whether a 17-year old would have known of a German rocketry group that had ended in 1934 when he was seven years old. Nevertheless, since we presently have no hard evidence to disprove the alleged founding year of 1942 for CRS No. 1 by Diamond, we must accept it until evidence to the contrary emerges. [For more on the VfR, consult Frank H. Winter, Prelude to the Space Age: The Rocket Societies 1926-1940) (Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, D.C., 1983), also available online.]

By 1945, Diamond was still residing in Montreal since he is often cited in the McGill Daily of McGill University in Montreal as a concert violinist although there is no mention of any connection he had with the CRS. However, Rob Godwin discovered a most interesting and revealing series of three articles in the McGill Daily that were all published in late January 1945.

The first appears in the McGill Daily of 26 January and is titled, “Rocket Flight Subject of Talk---Hurter to Address Mathematics Club On Space Travel.” This talk, by Fred Hurter, who was identified as “the President of the Canadian Rocket Society,” was on the theme of “The Mathematics of Space Flight.” It was to be delivered before the McGill Junior Mathematics Club in Room 37 of the Engineering Building. The second article, in the issue of 29 January, is titled “Mathematics Club to Hear Hurter Discuss Rockets---Flight by Rocket From Earth to Planets Is a Probability.” The talk was to be held in the same room for the Junior Mathematics Club and was on the same theme of “The Mathematics of Space.” It covered “calculations concerning course of flight, speed, and time of flight” for “inter-planet [sic.] travel.” The article interestingly ends with Hurter’s remark that, “No rocket with the flight capabilities of [the] V-2 could have been built before the war.”

The final article, in the issue of 30 January is titled “Mathematicians Discuss Rockets---Problem of Travel to Planets Outlined by Fred Hurter.” The talk was to be presented in the same room and Hurter was to deliver “a brief outline of the history, use, and study of rockets” while it is also noted that “At each meeting a [mathematical] problem is presented for the members to solve.”

Naturally, these series of articles open yet more mysteries and questions: To start with, who was Fred Hurter, what was his background, how did he come to form the CRS, do we know anything about his possible connections he may have had with Hillel Diamond, and so on.

First, we can identify Hurter as Fred Hurter, Jr. (1922-1992), born in Bucharest to German-speaking Swiss parents. He is certainly well known to historians of science fiction in Canada, mainly because in 1941 he produced and edited CENSORED, that is claimed as Canada's third fanzine, or mimeograph magazine for science fiction fans. Furthermore, he was a founding member of Canada’s National Fantasy Fan Federation, while in 1942 he formed the abortive Canadian Amateur Fan Publishers Association). We also learn from his son, Bob Hurter, that his father was inquisitive about many aspects of science and technology besides being a lifelong devoted fan of science fiction—and a lover and builder of model rocket “spaceships.”

The latter hobby started in 1937, when he was just 15, at Iroquois Falls, a town in Northern Ontario, where his own father was the pulp and paper mill manager. In that same year, the family moved to Red Rock, also in Northern Ontario. Here he contracted polio and a much later full length photo shows him with a cane. This disability, however, did not halt his love of building the models at all and in 1942, at age 20, Gordon L. Peck (aka “Gord Peck”), a fellow science fiction fan and occasional contributor to CENSORED, wrote him a letter saying: “Soooo [sic.] you’ve built 27 model spaceships all of which have flown.” Yet Peck was dubious about the latter part of the claim. Peck shot back that the alleged flights were “without proof. “They may have flown like a baseball,” he added, but otherwise… [illegible word]”

In CENSORED # 3 of March 1942, Fred wrote the short article titled “Rocket Ships,” in which he criticized the appearance of just such a ship depicted on the cover of another science fiction magazine, “Amazing”, and he advised his readers to try launching a rocket without its usual guide stick. “I did, with several,” he added, “thinking that they would go further without the weight of the stick. Some managed to rise all of eight feet before toppling over into the ground.” ”But what about the experimental models made by the various rocket societies?”’ he asked his readership. “Yes,” he answered his own question, “but you should note that they have very long heavy fins, that bring the center of gravity below [sic.] the point of thrust….” Hence, it seems very clear that Hurter’s own so-called “rocket ships” and even if he had flown 27 “model spaceships,” were no more than standard gunpowder firework rockets that were very likely only adorned to look like “spaceships”—nothing more.

In CENSORED # 4 of 4 June 1942, there appeared a criticism against Hurter by another fan member, Leslie Croutch, doing a critique of all the articles in CENSORED # 3 and added: “Hurter tells me he had built the things [`rocket ships’] and so knows more about them than just hearsay. If this is the case, and I don’t doubt his word, I suggest he run a series [of articles], complete drawings, tracing rocket development up to date and showing his ideas on practical rocketry and what a practical rocket ship should look like. How about it Fred? To this, Hurter was compelled to respond: “(We’ll think it over”). Yet, there is no evidence at all that Fred Hurter ever followed the reasonable and friendly advice from Croutch.

Nevertheless, besides Fred's love of “model rocket spaceships,” he also had a passion for the topic of spaceflight—as did his readership—since every cover of CENSORED had a spaceflight theme (some of them in color), not to leave out both the stories and poetry within the fanzine that lasted for six issues from June 1941 to 1951. The fanzine itself was originally going to be named ROCKET but when Hurter learned of this, on CENSORED # 1 he crossed out the original name and re-titled it CENSORED instead.

What of Fred Hurter’s “Canadian Rocket Society?” More is found in the pages of the CANADIAN FANDOM No. 9, “a cross-section of Canadian [science fiction] fan activity’ in its issue of July 1945.

Here, in Hurter’s long column “Stuff and Such,” he says: “What was I going to say now? No heckling, please. We’ll, I’ve formed a Canadian Rocket Society late this spring and we should be getting all organized this fall. We don’t intend to do any experimental work, we’re just going to get all the literature possible on the subject, have weekly discussions and lectures, and swap theories. Several of the professors [at McGill University in Montreal where he was then enrolled and studying chemical engineering] and we should have some interesting sessions this fall.”

Then, most interestingly, Hurter continued and answers another one of our questions as to how his “Canadian Rocket Society” came about.

“The whole thing,” he continued, “started more or less from a lecture I gave to the Mathematic Society of McGill on the mathematics of Space Flight [sic.], a lecture into which I was tricked by a so-called friend of mine. (Could this have been Good Peck who, after all, had troubled Hurter to reveal more about rockets and his spaceship models?).”

Fred Hurter circa 1946
Fred Hurter circa 1946

In any event, he went on, “Gad, I can still remember the members of the Math society [sic.] carefully dissecting my differential equations, just praying for a mistake. (Little did they know that I solved them in typical engineering style by use of a good mathematical book). The only embarrassing moment occurred when I strayed from the mathematical and, began to discuss fuel, food and air problems (in spaceflight). One fool wanted to know how enough water could be carried for the trip. I told him that the water supply would be on the increase, and thought he would catch on. But no, the fool wanted to know why. After rapidly casting a— [sic.] round in my mind for a subtle method of expressing the natural elimination process of the human body, I said, `Er — biological oxidation.’ Finally he caught on and a grin spread across his face to match those of the rest of the society [sic.] For two weeks after that the standard question was, `How’s your biological oxidation today, Fred.?”

But unfortunately after this, we hear no more of Fred Hurter’s Canadian Rocket Society. Nor can we answer another one of our questions as to whether Hillel Diamond was in any way connected with Fred Hurter, although since Diamond was then indeed residing in Montreal, and moreover, he too had been an avid fan of model rockets since his youth, if that account of him is correct. It seems more likely that at very least, Diamond had attended one or perhaps all, of Hurter’s lectures.

As for Hurter’s later activities, we know from his son Bob Hurter, that he remained at McGill until the Spring of 1946 although he may well have remained in Montreal. (He may have still belonged to the Montreal Science Fiction Society, which he had joined in 1942.) Also, through the further researches of Rob Godwin, we learn that Hurter had joined his father in managing the Stadler Hurter Ltd. Company, a Montreal-based firm that set up pulp and paper plants in several countries. (According to Bob Hurter, this company actually had its roots back in 1923 when Hurter's father worked on a project in Newfoundland for John Stadle's engineering company, but after that project was completed they parted ways and reconnected in 1946 in Montreal, forming Stadler Hurter.) Yet, despite Fred utilizing his training as a chemical engineer in the pulp and paper business, he maintained his deep love for science fiction, and presumably the topics of spaceflight and rocketry as well. In fact, he had said, in a newspaper interview why he was so devoted to fan fiction. “Hurter explains,” in The Expositor (Brantford, Ontario) for 25 April 1944, “the fancy for imaginative and screwball [sic.] literature as a form of relaxation for most fans.”

At any rate, we may also surmise that once he became occupied with the family business that he could not find the time (as he had enjoyed when he was a student at McGill) to pursue his “Canadian Rocket Society.” So another possibility is that he had simply turned over the leadership and running of that group to Hillel Diamond.

[For those who wish to learn more about Hurter's role in science fiction fanzines, consult “Screwball Literature Carries On,” in The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada), 19 April 1944, p. 19; also published in The Expositor (Branford, Ontario, Canada), as “Fiction Stranger Than Truth, State Fans of Fantasy,” in its issue of 25 April 1944, p. 15.

Yet, we can briefly add one more additional note on the most intriguing story of Fred Hurter. Namely, it is amazing that one of his childhood model rockets—No. 5 of ca. 1937—still exists and is in the possession of his grandson Alex. The rocket is depicted here, courtesy of both Alex and Bob Hurter. Moreover, it still bears Fred’s initials and is still in wonderful condition after all these 86 years, even though there is clear evidence it had once been launched.

Model Rocket #5 by Fred Hurter ca. 1937
Model Rocket #5 by Fred Hurter ca. 1937
Fred Hurter's 1941 fanzine CENSORED
Fred Hurter's 1941 fanzine CENSORED

A lot can be learned from this model. For one, judging from a view of it showing the burnt out motor and the residue of remaining burnt propellant, it was powered by gunpowder as were all model rockets of that period and for decades thereafter; also, the rocket must have also been successfully flown and recovered. Thirdly, even though the configuration of the rocket with its quaint fin arrangement was very typical of the 1930s, the workmanship on the wooden model was remarkable for a 15 year old at the time. After all, in those years no commercial rockets were available as in the present age and hence, the model must have been wholly designed and hand-built from scratch.

On the other hand, since Fred had written in 1942 (when he was 20) to his friend Gord Peck that he had constructed 27 “model spaceships,” we would expect this model to have been at least decorated, and painted up, to look like some kind of “spaceship.” Rather, it is unpainted and has no lettering and/or numbers to suggest a spacecraft designation, nor adornments on it (like spaceship porthole windows of example) to appear as a “spaceship.” Why is this so?

We can only surmise that perhaps his later model rockets did have such an appearance, although we will never know for certain since Bob Hurter informs us that this is the only one of his father’s models that still exists; furthermore, Bob Hurter adds that no known tech drawings of his father’s early model rockets are extant. We may lastly remark that the excellent workmanship on this model dating this early also reflects that there is no question that Fred Hurter must have indeed been highly knowledgeable about rockets in general by 1942, and certainly by the time he formed an iteration of the CRS in 1945. Moreover, he must have been long interested in science and technology even before enrolling at McGill and graduating in 1946 as a chemical engineer. As such, we can further surmise that his early strong interest in science may have made the teenage Fred Hurter to think and plan things out more than the average kid during that period while designing and building his model.

Hence, at a minimum we can firmly establish that the CRS, Group No. 1, definitely existed by 1945—and indeed, was actually started by the science fiction fan Fred Hurter, Jr., with Diamond probably becoming associated with it at this time through his attendance of one or more of Fred Hurter’s lectures. On the other hand, however, this particular CRS may have been an altogether different entity than the CRS that later formed in Toronto in 1948 that bore the same name. But here, we must point out that Hurter, in his article in Canadian Fandom No. 9 of July 1945, said that he had formed, during Spring of that year, “a Canadian Rocket Society” [My emphasis.] In other words, in this context the name of “Canadian Rocket Society” was almost a generic name, and that there is always the possibility in this case that there were SEVERAL entities named “The Canadian Rocket Society.”

At any rate, we presently know nothing of the size nor actual activities (other than lectures) of CRS group No. 1. Furthermore, we can only surmise that Hillel may have joined (if he had not already started the CRS group himself—as early as 1942. Nor do know how Hillel came to know Stehling, although that is likely to have occurred when he moved to Toronto. Then, it seems, Stehling’s smaller University of Toronto Rocket Club perhaps merged with the CRS; or rather, a new CRS was formed, in 1948 as related above (that we label CRS Group No. 2.) Godwin, in his earlier writings, cautiously only stated that Stehling’s Toronto Rocket Club “may have merged under the Canadian Rocket Society banner.” although again, we presently have no proof of this union.

For certain, both Stehling and Hillel became officers of this “new” group, in Toronto, by 1948, Stehling as the “Technical Director”(no doubt, due to his deeper technical background in rocketry) and Hillel as the “Secretary.” Again, nothing is known of the Chairman of CRS # 2 Group, William Cameron. In any case, according to a tiny item in the Toronto Daily Star for 6 July 1950, Hillel had assumed the role of President of the CRS by that year and he evidently remained in this position for a number of years thereafter and eventually transformed it into something quite different as more fully related below in section VII.

But the following question now arises: “When [what year] did Diamond cease to be the President of the CRS,” or rather, “When did CRS No. 2 Group end?”

We pose this question since tucked into the monthly column “World Astronautics” by the late Frederick C. Durant, III in the early American magazine, Missiles and Rockets in its issue of June 1958 is the following most intriguing item:

“North of the border, a Canadian Astronautics Society springs from the ashes of the Canadian Rocket Society (defunct since 1953); the CAS offers hope to many space-minded Canadians who were [since 1953] without an organized professional voice. An initial meeting [of the CAS] was held last March [1958] attended by 61 persons representing 18 industries. Dr. Philip A. Lapp, senior electrical engineer at De Havilland [Aircraft Co. of Canada], is acting president. Six men have been appointed by the 12-man counsel, including David Wallis of Avro Canada, [another very prominent Canadian aircraft manufacturer].”

Unfortunately, we have no information on why the CRS suddenly became “defunct” in 1953, so this is another mystery in a series of mysteries regarding the CRS. At any case, it is the only article found by CRS authority Rob Godwin that mentions the CAS in a discussion of the history of the Canadian Astronautical Society---which, of course, is altogether a different entity and is not part of our present article on the CRS.

We say “supposedly,” by the way, because another curious item is found in The Postgrad, a publication of the Alumni Association of the Sir George William College in Montreal. This item is very tersely included in passing in the column “Postgrad Patter” by Bob Hase in the issue of December 1955. Hase says: “What next --- students have formed a Sir George branch of the Canadian Rocket Society --- its purpose to build and test solid and liquid fuel rockets. No launchings near the new building, eh...” [sic.] Thus, could the CRS quickly have emerged again---and in a Montreal college and with very concrete testing plans? But after this, we hear no more of the Sir George William College branch of the Society so it most likely never got to that stage.

Yet, whatever happened, the CRS did not really face its true end, since after a number of years it became resurrected, although the date and circumstances are yet further mysteries.

Nevertheless, a little more than a dozen years later, the following curious item appeared in the Sherbrooke Daily Record of Sherbrooke, Quebec, of 19 January 1963, p. 3, titled “Named National Vice-President,” in which it is mentioned that: “Father Guy Morin has been named Vice-President of the Canadian Rocket Society.” If anything, this shows that by that time the CRS was spread more widely in Canada than is generally believed.

On top of this, a month after that notice, the same paper (of Sherbrooke) for 18 February of that year ran the following: “ROCKET CLUB MEMBERS INTERVIEWED —- Members of the Canadian Rocket Society, Quebec Branch (St. Patrick High School Rocket Club) were interviewed by CBC [the Canadian Broadcasting Company) [on] February 8 and finally filmed for a program on CBC on rocket societies across Canada.” It would thus be wonderful to find out if this film still exists.


For certain then, we know that the CRS was still around by the early 1960s—and its (presumably main or headquarters branch in Toronto) was then under the continued direction of Diamond. However, another possibility is that this particular CRS may simply have been a later iteration, or different group though still called the Canadian Rocket Society, and under Hillel Diamond, so for now we will simply label it as CRS group No. 3. In either case, it was the start of a wholly new phase of the CRS, that was focussed on model rocketry.

Indeed, Diamond had then started importing (from the U.S.) commercially-made small solid-propellant rocket motors employed by model rocketeers who appeared in the wake of the beginnings of the Space Age, and upon the granting of U.S. Patent No. 2,841,084 of 1 July 1958 to the shoe store owner and firework collector of Nebraska, Orville H. Carlisle for a “Toy Rocket”. This, in essence, marked the beginning of modern model rocketry that was subsequently promoted by G. Harry Stine and saw the sudden growth of companies in the U.S. producing such motors and soon afterwards, sponsored the first model rocket competitions that are now held world-wide.

Furthermore, an item by Michael Spivak in the Canadian news magazine “MacLean’s Magazine” for 2 December 1963 shows that as in the U.S.the activity of “amateur rocketry” abounded in Canada as well with the result that there were many serious injuries caused by unsupervised experiments with dangerous chemicals by youngsters. At that time, Spivak continued, “Unfortunately, The Canadian Rocket Society is out of the launching business,” implying that they may well have launched rockets in the past and that their experiments were then conducted by adults and in as careful and safe a manner as possible.

Hence, to Diamond rocketry was more of a hobby and sport and, according to his obituary in “Rocketry Planet” cited above, “During his heyday in the 60’s and 70’s, Diamond was very active in the Canadian Rocket Society, promoting the love of the hobby to people all around Toronto and the surrounding areas.” Moreover, the obituary continues, Hillel loved science in general and he and his wife formed the Science Shop situated in the Yonge Street Arcade, at 137 Yonge Street, Toronto. But the Shop was far more than a store since it was aimed at educating youngsters in science and science applications, and especially rocketry. Indeed, Hillel’s Science Shop held its first model rocket launches in 1968. The two entities---the CRS and the Science Shop---were thus intertwined, although we have no specific information on the later years of the CRS, whether it became dissolved and/or was afterwards reformed as yet another iteration.

This version of Diamond’s obituary further accredits him as “...the person who single-handedly was responsible for legalizing and popularizing the hobby of model rocketry in Canada.” Indeed, The Sherbrooke Daily Record for 27 December 1968, p. 1—in its issue describing the return of the Apollo 8 mission ion from the Moon, it so happens—describe in a story datelined from Ottawa, a rocket meet in which it is stated: “Before being able to to purchase…[a commercial model rocket] engine, a person must be a member of the Canadian Rocket Society,”

There are other available sources that amply show his level of support of the hobby through the CRS. Notably, for instance, the magazine “Model Rocketry” for September 1970 reported that: “Hillel Diamond and his Canadian Rocket Society...opened the 1969 National Science Fair exhibit at Eatons department store [in Toronto] with a spectacular ribbon cutting. A guide wire was stretched from the floor to the ceiling in Eatons and a Big Bertha [model rocket] was placed on the guide wire. The mayor, having been instructed to push a button to officially open the display, was amazed to see the rocket lift-off, fly up the guide wire, and cut the ribbon with its fin.”

“At the opening of the movie “2001” in a Toronto theatre,” the write-up goes on, “the Canadian Rocket Society came up with another display---this time a static display of club launch equipment [made up of commercially-available safe model rocket launching hardware] for model rockets. This type of public activity should go a long way in promoting the public acceptance of the hobby in Canada.”

In fact, “Model Rocketry” for June of that year in its “Letters to the Editor” pages, included a letter by Hillel on model rocketry regulations in Canada. And in the same issue, on p. 49, there is an advertisement for “The Science Shop” as “Canada’s only exclusive rocket shop – Home of the Canadian Rocket Society – Complete Facilities and Hobby Consultants – The Science Shop, 137 Yonge Street Arcade [in Toronto].” Hence, this ad further proves that the CRS and Hillel’s Science Shop were intertwined. (To this may be added the telling words by Peter Mar, as relayed by Fritz Gnass in his column in “Model Aviation Canada” of May 2011 in which Mar recalled that Diamond’s Science Shop served as a “club house” for the CRS.)

(Incidentally, an item in the Toronto Star for 12 November 1964 indicated that the Science Shop had just opened at that time and added that besides his work for the Canadian Rocket Society he additionally helped the Science Clubs of America and the “Y” Science Clubs, while another in the item in the Star for 26 September 1968 mentioned that he was also a part-time science teacher. In fact, Diamond remained a science teacher for many years and in the 1990s he was called a “Helacon science instructor.”)

However, in the December 1972 issue of the similar magazine, “Model Rocketeer”, in the section called “NAR [National Association of Rocketry] News,” is another small item about Hillel, although this time the CRS is not mentioned and Hillel is said to have been with the Canadian Association of Rocketry (CAR), which had formed in 1965.

Yet in the 24 January 1975 issue of the newspaper of the “Pickering Post” of Pickering, a sizable city immediately east of Toronto, Canada, we again encounter the CRS in the enlightening story, “Mini Cape Kennedy.”

This article beautifully describes rocketry activities that were to be conducted on Monday, 28 January by Hillel Diamond. “head of the Canadian Rocket Society” at the Morningside Pickering Library in Scarborough, in the greater Toronto area. The program was to begin in the Library with a “model rocket workshop,” followed by supervised launchings in the field behind the Library. The launchings, the article continues, was a “fast growing hobby” and involved “a launching pad set up, trackers for altitude, communications to obtain data, a launch control[,] and the all-important firing launch center. All models open up with parachutes and aim for perfect soft landings.”

Among the powered rockets scheduled for launch were: “space exploring rockets [i.e., rockets designed as built to resemble launch vehicles], a science fiction special (Peter Mar’s three-engine Flying Saucer...and a Cineroc Rocket [“sic”.] which takes Super 8 movies at 35 frames a second.” All ages were invited to attend. Another citation for Scarborough as a popular CRS workshop and launch site is found in the “Globe and Mail” for 29 July of the same year.

These kinds of rockets, as described by Shelia Clarke in her book Toronto is for Kids published in 1975, “...go as high as 2,000 feet and as fast as 700 miles per hour. They are built out of balsa or plastic...” although she did not explain about the commercially available and safe rocket motors.

To this are further remarks from the lengthy eulogy of Diamond expressed by Peter Mar in the column “Space Models” of Fritz Gnass in “Model Aviation Canada” for May 2011 in which Mar mentions that Diamond had started the annual Toronto Rocketry Meet, although he does not give the year, and that he had “…worked tirelessly in the late [19]60s and early 70s to have the [Canadian] Federal regulatory changes made in the sale and use of model rocket engines….[and] He succeeded beyond his dreams in this quest. There aren’t many individuals who can say they reached out to thousands of people in a positive way in their lifetime.”

The “Toronto Star” for 22 July 1977 even reported that Diamond---representing the CRS and wearing one of their patches---hosting a model rocket event for a group of 40 blind Canadian children. Another intersting article from this period, in the (Toronto) Sunday Star for 22 June 1980 also describes one of the Society’s rocket meets and adds that the “Diamond Rocket Trophy, named after the Society’s co-founder [we do not have the name of the other co-founder] and chairman, Hillel Diamond.” It is additionally mentioned here that Diamond had been “a rocketeer since 1942,” but unfortunately with no further explanation of what exactly that meant (i.e, whether he simply made and flew model rocket as a hobby or whether he had been involved in organizing a rocket group). In the “Globe and Mail” for 24 October 1981 the CRS announced their “Fifth annual Halloween rocket meet at their Mini-Cape on the Rouge River while Toronto’s “Sunday Star” of 5 September 1982 describes a later model rocket event at another field used by the CRS for rocket meets.

Unquestionably then, whether Diamond or perhaps with Hurter as a co-founder had formed a Canadian rocket group as early as 1942 called the Canadian Rocket Society, we cannot say, but for certain Diamond had opened up a whole new modern phase of rocketry in Canada from the early 1960s. In essence, this was his establishment, through the Canadian Rocket Society, of a carefully supervised model rocketry program in his country and based upon the fortuitous start of the production in the U.S. of safe model rocket kits in the U.S. that had been pioneered by Orville Carlisle on the technical side by the late 1950s and put on an organized footing by G. Harry Stine. Hence, Diamond had followed Stine’s example and had almost single-handedly established the new “sport,” or hobby, in his native Canada.

As Mar put it, “Mr. Diamond always had a teaching component to his rocketry activities [from the early 1960s, and based upon what Stine had done in the U.S.]. Through his prodigious efforts, model rocketry firmly took root in Canada that became among many other nations—both a hobby and sport that was safe, affordable, educational, and always fun. It was likewise very evident that from that period, the likes of Canada’s CRS’s “Moon rocket” plans of the 40s could in no way have ever competed with national multi-billion dollar national space programs manned by professional engineers but surely model rocketry could be practiced and enjoyed in this country. Moreover, Mar added, “Many of…Diamond’s graduates followed in his footsteps and brought the science of spaceflight to the next generation.”

However, insofar as the history of the CRS is concerned, our Canadian newspaper searches for both the Society and its The Science Shop can only be traced as to late as 1982. (In fact, in a lengthy and most useful ad for The Science Shop in The Sunday Star (Toronto) of 21 November of that year, we further learn that not only was “The Shop…located in the Yonge Street Arcade. But it has been moved to the Charles Street Promenade (just one block south on Floor Street on the West Side.” The same ad also presents a wonderful description of the many kinds of other science for children items available in the Shop, including a “Solar Music Box, micros opes, telescopes, and books, a chemistry department and biology department, besides “space-aged model rocket kits that go back to the Saturn V and Apollo…[and] the latest space shuttle and satellite kits…” Interestingly, the Toronto City Directory of 1983, under the heading of “Charles [Street] W. Begins,” we find at No. 16 of the Charles Street Arcade, “The Science Shopp [sic.],” perhaps the latter spelling being a typographical spelling.

But again, after this period, we no longer hear of the CRS the “model rocket workshops” and rocket meets and it is very likely that around that time the Society was either renamed, or was absorbed into a newer group strictly centered around model rocketry, or, had simply closed its doors.

However, in our accounts of the various iterations of the CRS, it is very necessary to cover salient highlights of Stehling’s later career in rocketry and astronautics which were very remarkable—and were a very important part of the Space Age.


In 1949, Stehling emigrated from Canada where he first worked with the Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation. He was next employed by the American Optical Company in Buffalo on the improvement of high altitude infrared spectrometers. Then in May 1950, he joined the Bell Aircraft Corporation, as mentioned, for his first real “rocket job” and became the head of their Rocket Research Fluid Physics Research Group. Afterwards, he served as the Leader of Bell’s Heat Transfer Branch and remained at Bell until 1955.

Among other projects, Stehling contributed to the later development of the famous Reaction Motors, Inc. (RMI) 6000C-4 rocket engine (later designated the XLR-11), that had powered the Bell X-1 rocket research aircraft and later rocket research aircraft. (In 1947, the Bell X-1 became the first aircraft to break the “sound barrier.”) At Bell, Stehling had mainly concentrated upon vibration problems, separation and interaction ignition concerns. In addition, he studied new rocket propellant combinations for other motors, besides pumps, and new injectors. He also worked on Bell’s own XLR-25 rocket engine that powered the Bell X-2 aircraft.

Meanwhile, graduate studies were undertaken at the University of Buffalo from 1949 to 1952. At the Second International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Congress held in London during 3-8 September 1951, he presented the paper “Earth Scanning Techniques for a Small Orbital Rocket Vehicle.” This was afterwards claimed as the first suggestion in the open literature on the use of satellites for reconnaissance.

Stehling’s connection with the U.S.’s early satellite program also began about this time. In the winter of 1951, at the American Rocket Society’s (ARS) meeting in New York City, Robert C. Truax delivered a strong proposal for a national space program. Consequently, Stehling was invited by the ARS Ad Hoc Committee on this subject that met for the first time in Washington, D.C. in 1952. He particularly advocated for the launch of a small, affordable satellite as contrasted to more complex and high expensive plans proposed by Wernher von Braun.

A little later, Stehling, with Ray M. Missert of the University of Iowa presented another proposal at an ARS meeting in New York during 30 November to 3 December 1954 in which they suggested the advantages of launching a satellite from an airborne balloon. This soon became confused in the press with the White House’s announcement in July 1955 that the U.S. would launch a satellite during the coming International Geophysical Year (IGY) although they were not related.

Cover of the book "Project Vanguard" by Kurt Richard Stehling Doubleday New York 1961
Cover of the book "Project Vanguard" by Kurt Richard Stehling Doubleday New York 1961

Nevertheless, in mid-October 1955, Stehling was invited by Milton Rosen to join Project Vanguard in the development of the U.S.’s first planned satellite, with work on the design of the vehicle to be undertaken at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). On 1 January 1956, he moved to Washington, D.C. to be near the Lab. Stehling was named by Rosen to head the Vanguard propulsion section. As matters turned out, though, a modified Redstone missile known as the Jupiter-C, with upper stages, launched the U.S.’s first satellite, Explorer 1, on 31 January 1958. (The Vanguard, that was a non-military vehicle that had been especially designed for satellite launches, experienced serious developmental problems and a series of failed launches although it did succeed with the orbiting of the Vanguard 1, 2, and 3 satellites on March 17, 1958, 17 February 17, 1959, and 18 September 1959, respectfully.

Upon the end of the Vanguard program in the latter year, Stehling was transferred to the recently formed (in 1958) National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), also in Washington, D.C. Here, he was named the Senior Scientist on the staff of the Administrator of Long Range Planning. As such, he played roles in the planning towards Projects Mercury, the unmanned Surveyor and Ranger, and afterward, Project Apollo and NASA’s Marine Applications Systems.

In 1963, he left NASA to assume the post of Vice-President of Electro-Optical Systems Corporation of Pasadena, California. From 1966 to 1971 he served as the Senior Staff Scientist and Staff Advisor of the National Council on Marine Applications Resources. In 1970, he had also joined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and conducted research on the use of satellites for the remote sensing of oceans as well as undersea and light-than-air technologies. (For many years, Stehling had also been an avid balloonist and licensed balloon pilot). Besides this, he was a vigorous advocate for the development of huge helium airships for transport and research.

A prolific writer on a wide spectrum of areas in rocketry, spaceflight, oceanography, and the use of satellites in the latter field, he authored more than 100 technical papers and wrote articles for a wide variety of magazines as well as books, including Project Vanguard (in 1961), Lasers and Their Applications (1966), and Bags Up! Great Balloon Adventures (1975). He also took out a number of patents. Stehling died on 18 March 1998.

He had been a member of diverse organizations, including a Fellow of the Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the British Interplanetary Society, an Honorary Fellow of the Lighter-than-Air Society, a member of the Board of Governors of the Optical Society of America, the Explorers Club, the Philosophical Society, and others.

He had been the recipient of several awards including the Gailbraith Medal of the University of Toronto (1948), the Newcomen Award of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in 1951 and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Toronto.


Ferreting out the story of the CRS—and its iterations—has thus indeed been an extremely challenging and complex one as stated in our introduction, since there are many segments or ”fragments” to it that had to be woven together in an attempt to arrive at a bigger picture. It is still an imperfect picture due to its many gaps and “mysteries.” Despite these flaws though, we do have a far better basic overall story of the CRS. We further see two very distinctive parts or phases of this history, each with its own unique character and set of goals. Here, of course, we are referring to the two main entities of the CRS —group No’s 1 and 2.

We saw that the roots of the more prominent CRS group No. 2 may have actually dated back to as early as the late 1930's by the German-born Kurt Stehling who had been captivated by the “rocket and spaceflight fad” of the 1920s that had started in his native Germany. Then, by 1930, young Stehling and his family emigrated to Canada. Yet his “dream” of spaceflight in the future never left him, nor his fascination with rockets, and by 1934 while a student in Toronto's Technical High School, he formed a “Rocket and Space Study Club” and undertook his own rocketry experiments. Then later, while attending college he began another group, The University of Toronto Rocket Club that flourished up to at least 1948 and from this time is supposed to have sprung the CRS (group No, 2).

However, matters become complicated in that one Hillel Diamond, born in Montreal and six years younger than Stehling, was also supposed to have formed the CRS—perhaps as early as 1942. Yet, there is no evidence to verify this claim. This then is one of the several mysteries that needs to be resolved and it is hoped that one or more of our readers may be able to help solve it.

Even so, both Stehling and Diamond were surely both dreamers of spaceflight from their youth and throughout their lives, besides passionate about rocketry. Edward Evans Fox, the third major figure in this history of the CRS, and the oldest of the three and in his case inspired by the dream of spaceflight as early as 1906 at age seven or so, after reading the space novels of Jules Verne. Therefore, all three of these men had the lifelong dream of spaceflight in common.

Fox's later book-length manuscript about spaceflight—that cannot be found---is another key mystery in the CRS story that we likewise fervently hope that one of our readers might be able to locate, or at least to learn its fate. For that matter, it would be tremendous if we could locate copies of the original C.R.S. News Letters of ca. 1948-1949, or other CRS publications or papers.

Among other mysteries are that we still do not know how, nor exactly when Stehling came to meet Fox and also Diamond; nor details of about Stehling’s CRS Rocket No. 1, nor the dates and circumstances of both the founding and the ending of CRS of the 1960-70s under Diamond. Again, readers who might be able to contribute towards solving these and other gaps are most welcome to contact us.

Yet, one other undeniable fact that is abundantly clear in this attempted history of the CRS is that not only were its key protagonists lifelong dreamers about spaceflight and rocketry, but they also had very distinctive and unique approaches towards their goals. There were thus two distinctive phases of the CRS story.

One, under the leadership of Fox and Stehling from 1948 was a very ambitious, elaborate, although idealistic plan to reach the Moon, from which their publicity spread internationally and the CRS’s greatest worldwide fame at the time. Yet while from our later perspective the plan had many flaws it was very much a part of the overall history of the great dream of spaceflight---in Canada and elsewhere. And as for Stehling, it turned out that the year 1949 was major turning point for him when he left Canada and emigrated to the U.S. where incredibly, he eventually succeeded in helping the U.S.'s own goals in reaching space.

The other phase, under Hillel Diamond who had his own passion for rocketry, opened by the early 1960s and saw the Society enter into a completely new and different aspect of its history. The CRS was no longer centered upon the design of an elaborate Moon rocket but upon the establishment of safe model rocketry for Canadian youth for their fun and education. Indeed, as we saw in one of his obituaries, Diamond became acclaimed as the “Grandfather of Canadian [model] rocketry.”

By the same token, Stehling, Fox, and Diamond were all highly optimistic in their own visions and dedication to the CRS. In the final analysis, the distinctive phases of the CRS were each inspirational in their own unique ways. This does not leave out the separate inspirational personal stories of these men and all of them may be considered as Canadian rocket pioneers.

Yet none of these very far-sighted individuals could have ever imagined that one day---decades later, on 3 April 2023---that NASA would announce the selection of one of their compatriots, Jeremy Hansen, as Canada's first astronaut to be a member of a team scheduled to fly in the Artemis II rocket to the Moon and to orbit around it. (Hansen was preceded by nine other Canadian astronauts who had either flown in low-Earth orbit missions aboard the Space Shuttle or in Russian Soyuz spacecraft missions.) Artemis II is also to be the first manned mission to the Moon since the last Apollo flight, Apollo 17 of 1972 and Hansen will be the first ever Canadian to venture into deep space. The historic mission of Artemis II is scheduled to launch no earlier than November 2024. When that happens it will make Canada the second country to have an astronaut fly around the Moon. This mission will therefore be the realization of a dream of spaceflight sought by all the founders of the CRS back in the 1940s.


Advertisement, free CRS lecture, by astronomer Dr. John F. Heard, “What Are the Other Planets Like?” “Toronto Daily Star”, 24 March 1949, p. 38.

“Aim at Trip to Moon From Toronto in 1950s,” “The Globe and Mail” (Toronto), 28 August 1948, p. 4.

“All Aboard for Mars! Venus Choice Spot, Too, For Rocketing Tourists,’” “The Globe and Mail” (Toronto), 20 March 1949, p. 5.

Austin Taylor, “Over 50 Years of Canadian Rocket Scientists,” “Canadian Space Gazette” (Toronto), January 2005, p. 6.

Bradley, John, “Countdown---and the rockets are off,” “Sunday Star” (The Toronto Star), 5 September 1982, p. H-7.

Campbell, J.W., “The Problem of Space Travel,” “Journal of the Royal Astronomy Society of Canada”, Vol. XLII, March-April 1948, pp. 50-69.

Campbell, Samuel, “40 blind youngsters set a trip aboard a flying saucer---it you help,” “Toronto Star”, 22 July 1977, p. B-5.

Canadian Rocket Society, advertisement for, “Model Rocketry”, Vol. III, July 1970, p. 49.

“Canadian Rocket Society,” “The Globe and Mail” (Toronto), 24 October 1981, p. A-6.

Diamond, Hillel, Letter from, “Letters to the Editor,” “Model Rocketry”, Vol. III, July 1970, p. 3.

Diamond, Hillel, item on, “NAR News,” “Model Rocketeer”, Vol. XIV, December 1972, [p. 6].

Durant, III, Frederick C., “World Astronautics,” Missiles and Rockets, Vol. , June 1958, p. 163.

“Expedition Moon,” “Toronto Daily Star”, 6 July 1950, p. 31.

Fortier, Rénald, “Zoom, zoom, zoom fly me to the Moon,” online article of 1 February 2019, posted as [1]

Fox, Evans E,C., “Big Space Ship,” “Tattersall’s Club” Magazine (Sydney, Australia), Vol. 22, October 1949, p. 22.

“From the Launch Pad,” “Model Rocketry”, Vol. 2, September 1970, p. 5.

Gnass, Fritz, [Euolgy on Hillel Diamond], “Model Aviation Canada”, Vol. 22, May 2011, # 2, p. .

“Godfather of Canadian hobby rocketry dies Saturday, The,” “Rocketry Planet” web site, 20 February 2011, courtesy, Robert Godwin.

Godwin, Robert, authority on the CRS, emails to Frank H. Winter, November 2020 and earlier.

Godwin, Robert ("Rob"), emails (re the No. 5 model rocket of Fred Hurter, Jr.), 30 July and 6 August 2023.

Godwin, Robert, Dr. Phil Lapp, and Chuck Black, “100 years of Aerospace History in Canada. From McCurdy to Hadfield,” in Marsha Freeman, ed., “History of Rocketry and Astronautics”, AAS History Series, Vol. 46 (Univelt, Inc.: San Diego, 2016), especially pp. 214, and 216-218.

Green, Constance McLaughlin and Milton Lomask, “Vanguard: A History” (Smithsonian Institution Press: Washington, D.C., 1971), pp. 79, 88, 168, 182, 208-209, 219.

Hayes, Bob, “Postgrad Patter,” “The Postgrad” (Alumni Association, Sir George William College, Montreal), Vol. II, No. 4, December 1955, p. 5.

“Hope to Reach Moon [and] Make it [a] Rocket Base,” “Toronto Daily Star”, 7 June 1948, p. 11.

Hurter, Robert ("Bob") Walter, emails (re the No. 5 model rocket of his father, Fred Hurter, Jr.), 11 July, 5 and 9 August 2023 to Rob Godwin and shared with Frank H. Winter.

[Kernerman, Samuel Charles, obituary], “Deaths, Memorials, Births,” “Toronto Star”, 22 October 2000, p. F-6.

“List of Societies Interested in Space-Flight,”in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 9, November 1950, p. 324.

“Mathematics Club to Hear Hurter Discuss Rockets---Flight by Rocket From Earth to Planets Is a Probability,” “McGill Daily” (McGill University, Montreal, Canada), Vol. XXXIV, 29 January 1945, pp. 1, 4.

“Mathematicians Discuss Rockets---Problem of Travel to Planets Outlined by Fred Hurter,” “McGill Daily” (McGill University, Montreal, Canada), Vol. XXXIV, 29 January 1945, p. 1.

“Mini Cape Kennedy,” “Pickering Post” (Pickering, Ontario, Canada), Vol. 25, 24 January 1975, p. 3.

“Moon Trip an Illusion to Space Travel Expert,” “Globe and Mail” (Toronto), 24 January 1948, p. 4.

"Named National Vice-President," “Sherbrooke Daily Record” (Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada), 19 January 1963, p. 3.

“Plans Visit to Venus From Base on Moon,” “Globe and Mail” (Toronto), 19 July 1949, p. 5.

“Plans Visit to Venus---Moon Just a Whistle Stop For Toronto Rocketeer,” “Globe and Mail” (Toronto), 12 July 1949, p. 7. [New York Times Special, 11 July 1949].

“Rocket Base on Moon Possible in 10 Years,” “Globe and Mail” (Toronto), 7 June 1948, p. 5.

“Rocket Flight Subject of Talk---Hurter to Address Mathematics Club On Space Travel,” “McGill Daily” (McGill University, Montreal, Canada), Vol. XXXIV, p. 1.

“Science and Mechanics”, Vol. XX, February 1949, pp. 82-83.

Spivak, Michael, “Amateur rocketry: the growing fad that could blow off somebody’s head off,” “MacLean’s Magazine” (Toronto), Vol. , 2 December 1963, p. .

Stehling, Kurt, drawing, “Motor Details [of] C.R.S. Rocket # 1,” 13 July 1948, in “Kurt Stehling” file, National Air and Space Museum, Archives.

Stehling, Kurt R., email to Frank H. Winter, 14 February 1989, copy iin “Kurt R. Stehling” file, NASM.

Stehling, Kurt, “Fair in Love and War,” “The World”, July 1988, p. 437.

Stehling, Kurt, Letter to the Editor, “Space Travel is Possible,” “Globe and Mail” (Toronto), 29 January 1945, p. .

Stehling, Kurt, “Rocket Propulsion,” “The Engineering Journal”, Vol. , March 1948, pp. 162-166.

Stehling, Kurt, videotaped interview by Clarence E. Larson, ca. 1980-1990s, available online, “Kurt Stehling Interview.”

“To the Moon?” in, “Evening Star” (Washington, D.C.), 5 September 1948, p. B-4.

“Trips to the Moon by 1960,” “Current Science”, Vol. 18, December 1949, p. 434.

West, Bruce, “Lunar Loops Loom---Head of Canadian Rocket Group Foresees $ 5 Million Trip to the Moon by 1960,” “Globe and Mail”, 23 December 1948, p. .

“Workshop was a Blast,” “Globe and Mail”. (Toronto), 29 July 1975, p. 29.