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Tuesday, January 31, 2023
NOTL dad ‘over the moon’ with son’s role in Mars mission

Gail Kendall
Special to The Lake Report

Vlad Haltigin is one proud father these days.

The NOTL resident, a retired former executive with Xerox Canada Ltd., has a new “out-of-this-world” claim to fame: father of Tim Haltigin, Mars senior mission scientist.

The younger Haltigin is part of the international team of scientists involved in the successful Mars Perseverance rover landing last week. 

The Mars mission has captivated space observers who look forward to its findings as it seeks signs of ancient life and collects rock samples from the Red Planet.

But, due to COVID restrictions, Tim, 44, was unable to be at Mission Control in Pasadena, Calif., and instead watched events unfold from his basement in Montreal. 

Vlad and his wife, Cathy Stewart, retired executive director of human resources for the Canadian Olympic Committee, watched the exciting and tense landing from their home in NOTL.

“We were glued to the NASA TV broadcast and to CBC Newsworld,” Vlad told The Lake Report.

“As the landing on Mars of the Perseverance rover was confirmed at 3:55 p.m. last Thursday, we cheered along with the specialists at Mission Control. Within 20 minutes, Tim was being interviewed live on CBC. We were even more excited for him and proud of the role he played in this historic event.”

Moving to NOTL from Oakville 18 months ago, Vlad, a member of the Shaw Guild and the Rotary Club, admits he and the entire family are “over the moon” with son Tim's role in the Mars mission.

Vlad is also the father to son Chris, an obstetrics and gynecology resident in Detroit, daughter Larissa, a sales manager for the Whistler-Blackcomb Mountain resort in B.C., and their oldest brother, Nick, who is involved in the wine trade and lives in Chilliwack, B.C. They also are keenly following the Mars mission. 

“Tim is helping to lead the team which is designing the science program for the overall Mars sample return,” his father said.

“The Perseverance rover that landed last week is the first step of multiple missions to get samples back to Earth in 2031. Other than this Mars mission, Tim is also involved with OSIRIS-REx mission, which launched in 2017, to recover surface samples from the asteroid Bennu, and which will bring the samples back to Earth in 2023, landing in the Utah desert,” he said.

Tim began working on the Mars 2020 mission about six years ago and expects his work to continue until around 2033.

His interest in the space program stemmed from his experience growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan under the wide-open skies of the Prairies. He knew as a high school student that he wanted to study science. 

Tim received his PhD from McGill University in 2010 and joined the Canadian Space Agency that year. He is now a senior mission scientist, planetary exploration. 

He also holds the title of geomorphologist – someone who studies rocks, rivers and ice. 

While studying for his PhD, Haltigin spent a couple of months every summer drilling ice in the Far North on Axel Heiberg Island, an uninhabited island in the Qikiqtaaluk Region in Nunavut. 

So-called “cold springs” may be similar to active springs that could potentially exist on Mars, scientists studying the phenomenon suggest.

Haltigin also managed the Canadian laser on board the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft that mapped the asteroid Bennu to identify the best place for it to land. 

The spacecraft successfully landed on the asteroid in 2018 and in October 2020 began its return flight to Earth, where it is expected to land in 2023.

Haltigin, who lives with his wife, Melissa, and their two daughters in Saint-Constant, Que., has been credited with the ability to “take a complex subject, such as all the science involved in the mission, and to be able to relate it in a way that is exciting and understandable to the world at large,” Vlad said. 

He added his son “is passionate about what he does and is excited about what this mission opens up not only for today’s scientists but especially for those in the future.”



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