Colonel Chris Hadfield, having served as the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station for the past 144 days, has now returned to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz vessel. During that time, he orbited the Earth 2,336 times, travelled nearly 62 million miles, and became one of the most inspiring scientific figures of our generation. Hadfield’s unprecedented educational outreach campaign (all conducted from 300-400 kilometres above the Earth’s surface) has captured the imaginations of millions from across Canada and around the world, so much so that NBC’s Brian Williams has called for his induction into the Order of Canada.
During his time in orbit, Colonel Hadfield answered dozens of questions from inquiring minds, posting multiple videos that documented what it’s really like in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station, such as why you can’t cry in space, how to wash your hands, and how to clip your nails. Not to mention the fact that he conducted an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit from orbit, and performed with the Barenaked Ladies for CBC Music.
Catchy isn’t it?
As if that wasn’t enough, Commander Hadfield also gave us the first music video produced in outer space, a stirring rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.
Hadfield has become an inspiration to millions, young and old. He has potentially become the most famous astronaut since Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin, and once again has turned the eyes of the world towards the stars. Not only has Hadfield become a household name and a populizer of science, but it has brought new attention to the fact that 15 nations, including bitter Cold War rivals, are working together on a permanent station orbiting our planet, all in the name of scientific exploration and discovery. While we should be proud as Canadians of Hadfield, we should also be proud of humanity as whole for achieving what we have in space.
As we begin to look to the Moon, Mars, and beyond for future missions into the final frontier, we should thank Commander Hadfield for helping us think about the universe outside this little, blue planet of ours. The Order of Canada would be a good start.
Graeme Archibald is a graduate of the University of Alberta and a nerd for space exploration.
Image courtesy of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on Flickr.