Ground control to Major Hadfield

Canadian astronaut inspires listeners with speech about his life and space

Mark Hendricks, Science & Technology Editor Ω

Astronaut Chris Hadfield speaking during his President's Lecture Series presentation last Friday. Kevin Skrepnek/The Omega

Astronaut Chris Hadfield speaking during his President’s Lecture Series presentation last Friday. Kevin Skrepnek/The Omega

Canadian astronaut and former International Space Station (ISS) commander Chris Hadfield spoke to a packed Campus Activity Centre on Oct. 4 about his life as an astronaut and what humanity can do when we work together.

“I have some pictures to show you,” Hadfield teased.

Hadfield certainly did have pictures to show. Anyone who has followed Hadfield on Twitter knows that while in space he took tens-of-thousands of pictures of Earth and brought the realities of living in space home for social media followers everywhere.

Hadfield used these pictures as talking points for his presentation, which took the audience from Earth to space and back to Earth again. Hadfield is fairly modest about his trips into space, recalling little details such as which underwear was appropriate for each occasion.

“I’ve put on my space underpants three times,” Hadfield said. “They were actually a diaper because that’s what you wear in space, and Johnson and Johnson puts little pink and blue astronauts on them for us.”

“You’re driving out to your rocket ship and everyone else is driving away from your rocket ship because it has about four million pounds of fuel in it and everyone has to get out to a five kilometer circle because if it blows up that’s how big the crater is going to be,” Hadfield said.

Ever since he was a young child Hadfield started steering his life towards becoming an astronaut, even though at the time it was impossible for a Canadian citizen to become an astronaut. But Hadfield got his lucky break.

“They put an ad in the newspaper that said ‘wanted, astronauts’ and I thought, ‘yes, this is my chance right here,’” Hadfield said.

The international nature of the ISS was a large focus of the speech. The space station was built by countries all over the world and according to Hadfield is an example of what people can do when you give them a good, seemingly impossible, example.

The journey to the ISS was the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of effort for Hadfield.

“After a voyage that had started when I was nine years old and taken me through two shuttle flights, I had to learn to speak Russian [and] learn to be the pilot of a Soyuz to fly to the space station,” Hadfield said. “We got to the space station and opened the hatch and it was just a wonderful experience.”

Astronaut Chris Hadfield pauses for a question during his lecture at TRU last Friday. Kevin Skrepnek/The Omega

Astronaut Chris Hadfield pauses for a question during his lecture at TRU last Friday. Kevin Skrepnek/The Omega

Hadfield took the audience on a tour of the world from space, giving a view of the planet that only a few people have ever seen in person to the guests in attendance. He also used his pictures to show what life is like on the ISS as well as the scientific work that goes on there.

“If you’re on the space station and you close your eyes and wait a minute or two you’ll see a bright flash,” Hadfield said. “It’s one of the high energy particles going through your optic nerve, you can actually see the radiation going through your body… which is not that settling.”

Eventually Hadfield’s journey took the audience back to Earth and the difficulties of being on Earth after six months of weightlessness about the ISS.

“You can’t believe how heavy everything is,” Hadfield said. “You have to pick up your arms, which just seems so unfair. You have to hold your head up, I hadn’t held my head up in six months.”

Hadfield opened the floor to questions, and befitting his inspirational status, over half the questions were from children dreaming of space.