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Colonel Chris Hadfield Answers Space Oddities

Colonel Chris Hadfield Answers Space Oddities

Canada’s space hero Colonel Chris Hadfield—the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station— visited the Maclean’s newsroom as part of his guest-editing gig for their special space issue, out in early August. While he was in the Maclean’s offices, he helped with the issue’s editorial content, jammed with the newsroom, debuted a glimpse of a new song from his upcoming album, and also took part in a live Facebook Q&A with Maclean’s readers. Here are some of the best answers below:

Q: What would you say to young people considering a career in a STEM field? Do you think gender diversity in STEM is important? What inspired you to pursue mechanical engineering and how did it help you in your career as an astronaut?

– EngSite

A: Hi, Chris here. The key is to pursue what is inherently fascinating to you. Mech Eng taught me the basics to base so many other things on. And STEM topics are the bedrock of our economy and civilisation. Become as good at them as you possibly can, every day.

Q: Do you dream about being in space while here on Earth? What are the dreams like and what does it feel like when you wake up? Did you dream about being on Earth, only to wake up and realize you were in space?

– Mel Dug

A: I’m not a good dream rememberer. I see sleep as a time to heal, rest and reorganize. I’m much more interested in what’s going on while I’m awake.

Q: The ESA’s new director general, Johann-Dietrich Worner, recently advocated the successor to the ISS should be a moon base. NASA also recently announced that the cost of a moon base could be a tenth of what they had previously thought. What are your thoughts on the successor to the ISS. Do you think a moon base is a good idea?

– Liam Johnstone 

A: Yes! The Moon is the obvious next necessary step in leaving Earth permanently. So many things we have to give ourselves a chance to get wrong, where it doesn’t kill everybody. We will go from ISS to the Moon to eventually Mars.

Q: What do you think about the future of privatized space flight (ie. Space X) vs. government agency space programs (NASA)?

– Dan Chua

A: It’s a natural transition, and is bound to happen. We’re just at the watershed now for human spaceflight.

Q: My biggest dream in the world is to travel to space. I am so fascinated with everything to do with space and I have purchased many books even though I don’t understand half of what they’re talking about, but I do my best. I’ve always wanted to talk with somebody who has been in space. I have so many questions like: what was it like to look at earth from the outside looking in? What was your favourite part about the whole experience? Do you ever just stop and stare at the stars and the moon and just wonder what else is out there? When you were out in space did you look out and ask yourself if there could be anything else out there?

– Jade Sideris

A: Our world is breathtakingly beautiful, ever-changing and renewing, immensely ancient, patient, self-healing. We need to be better stewards, but what you see from space is the magnificence of time.

Q: Has being in space changed the way you view people and our interactions? I imagine the silly borders we have on our maps would make you giggle while looking down at the earth, so do you think advancement into space is the direction we should go, when we go to war with each other over what we have already?

A: Spaceflight has made me more patient, serene, and optimistic. it’s because I’ve seen the Earth for what it truly is, thousands of times.

Q: I see you love music. My question is: who are your favourite musicians?

– Dorothy Sema Aydin

A: Gordon Lightfoot, Stan Rogers, Leonard Cohen, Guess Who.

Q: Space exploration has always been of interest to people. Everyone loves seeing close-ups of Pluto or hearing about new, Earth-like planets outside of our solar system, but sometimes governments may not see the importance of looking past our own atmosphere. In your opinion, how have geopolitics and government funding affected our race to space, and will it affect any future plans to explore other planets/systems?

– Gabe Burchert 

A: Exploration is never easy nor top priority, but it has always been part of who we are, and necessary. Every explorer in history had to fight for support and funding. It’s how it should be.

Q: What inspired you to walk in space and become the astronaut that you are today?

– Chemaine Cheng

A: Science fiction, underpinned by science fact, capped by the 1st 2 walkers on the Moon. I decided that day.

Q: Will a Canadian ever walk on the Moon?

– John Johnson

A:  Yes. Just a matter of when.

Q: My boyfriend and I were in the front row of the arena for your appearance in Stratford last week, and while we were waiting to get in, my boyfriend asked me what happens in case of a medical emergency while in space, or more specifically, what you would do with a dead body. I had no idea what to tell him and my browser history is now very suspicious. It would make our day if you could clarify this for us! 

– Danielle Hutchison

A: We get medical training. I can do basic surgery, as-needed, and we have a small supply of drugs and equipment onboard. In a dire emergency we’d get in the Soyuz and come home.

Q: What are your thoughts on Stephen Hawking and a Russian billionaire searching for other life in the universe?

– Nic Dolas

A: It’s such a primal question, I hope their combined effort can find evidence of life elsewhere. It’s one of the core drivers of exploration.

Q: I am a young Canadian female who aspires to hopefully one day become an astronaut. My question is: what is your advice to young Canadians who wish to hopefully one day become astronauts? I recognize that the odds are stacked against me, however I would love to hear any insight as to how I could make this dream become a reality. You are my hero, Mr. Hadfield.

– Steffani Grondin 

A: Thank you Steffani. Three things: keep your body in shape, get an advanced technical education, and learn to make decisions and stick with them. And most important! Don’t let the end game be your only definition of success. Love each step of the pursuit of your dreams, because that’s where your life actually occurs.

Q: To many people, space exploration is a waste of time and money. They feel that the amount of money spent on this endeavour could be best used for finding cure for many diseases or eliminating poverty from earth. Could you please explain it in a lay men’s term as to why is space exploration important for the future of mankind?

– Aftab Mirza

A: The key is in the relative amounts we spend on things. No one I’ve ever met who thinks the money is a waste actually knows how much money it is; it’s just a vague belief. I’ve researched it many times, and I think the balance between the problems of today and the necessity for research and exploration is about right.

Q: Could you hear anything while you were on your space walk outside of your suit?

– John P. Lusted

A: Nope. Dead quiet. All you hear is radio transmissions from Earth and your own breathing. But if you lean your helmet on structure, you can hear the vibrations a bit. Like touching a tuning fork to your head.

Q: There will be so many fantastic questions on here by the time this is done; one that I have is with all your international (and beyond) travels, what is your favourite beer?

– Adam Sherlock 

A: Molson Export.

Q: I would like to know what it feels like to fall back to Earth and smash into the ground. Especially after being weightless, it must be horrible! Also, what do they use to cushion your landing?

– Dorothy Hansen

A: It is physically very tough to plummet through the air and hit the ground, like having 5 or 6 people lie on you are you tumble down a hill and then have a car crash. A parachute slows our final fall, and small rackets cushion the impact. But it’s still wildly violent.

Q: Thank you for your role as a Canadian ambassador. You continue to make us proud. What has been one of the more unexpected insights or experiences you’ve had in your career as a pilot, scientist and astronaut?

– Hanne Lene Dalgleish

A: That impossible things happen sometimes because they just barely can.

Maclean’s/August, 2015