THUNDER Bay – From childhood, Thunder Bay’s Matthew Cimone has dreamed of going to space. His love of the night sky was inspired by his grandfather during his early years stargazing on the shores of Lake Shebandowan. The breathtaking evenings, away from city lights, revealed a universe of brilliant colours, planets, and galaxies that Matthew hoped one day to explore. And now he might have the chance to actually leave the earth.
During his years at Fort William Collegiate Institute, Matthew planned for his career as an astronaut. He would Royal Military College, become an air force pilot, earn his degree in engineering and apply for the Canadian Space Agency; a route taken by several Canadian astronauts. But during these high school years, Matthew learned that myopia had already washed him out of the pilot program. He thought he had lost the stars.
In search of Plan B, Matthew took a year off school and travelled the globe. He eventually found himself at University of Toronto’s International Development Studies program after learning of the injustices in developing countries. He spent a year in Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa featured in the movie Blood Diamonds, and where a civil war fought over diamonds devastated the nation. Matthew founded a charity organization called Esther’s Echo. Echo supports a school in Sierra Leone, founded by a local African woman named Esther Kanu. Her school reintegrates former child soldiers and vulnerable young women back into the community. Through his work, Matthew secured a position as a Goodwill Youth Ambassador for the United Nations and began to speak to high schools across Canada about the need to be aware of and support global causes.
Despite his efforts abroad, Matthew still kept close to all things related to space. This past summer, he produced a documentary about the final flight of the space shuttle called Chasing Atlantis with another Thunder Bay veteran, Paul Muzzin, founder of Riptide Media. The documentary followed a group of Canadians, including Matthew and Paul, on a road trip from Toronto to Titusville Florida to see the last launch of shuttle Atlantis in person. Along the route, they interviewed several NASA engineers, a former director of the Kennedy Space Center and even Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield. “Chris is my favourite astronaut.”
Matthew recalled of the interview. “He reminded me of something that I think my grandfather tried to teach me on those shores of Lake Shebandowan and something which drove my interest in working in Africa. Seen from space, our planet is borderless. The coloured maps and lines that we create are not the real Earth. These are divisions and separations that were made by people and often the formation of those lines was a very painful process. I wish I had the opportunity to see the world as Chris Hadfield has.”
The exciting news is that Matthew now does have that opportunity.
Metro newspaper is running a competition that Matthew has entered to actually go into space…literally. The paper is hosting an online vote for one individual to land a seat with new space tourism company SXC based out of Curacao in the Caribbean. A dream once thought lost is now a very real possibility for Matthew. “I still speak to many youth,” Matthew explains “and talk to them about the need to treat the world as it truly is. A fragile and borderless planet that we need to take better care of. When I do these presentations, I would love to speak from first-hand experience; to show my own photos from space and inspire those I meet to live their lives with that image of our home in their minds.”
The competition is determined partly by a judging panel that chooses from the competitions’ most highly voted candidates. “I’m asking the Thunder Bay community to help support me in my fight against gravity by voting for me online!”
The link to Matthew’s entry in the competition can be found at:
www.metroinspace.com/ca/view/ct94 Voters can vote up to 10 times each day for Matthew between now and April 5th on any computer and also on their phone. That mean you could vote 10 times from work, home and on a cell phone for a total of 30 votes a day.
The link for Matthew’s entry can also be found on his website at: www.matthewcimone.com