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Chris Hadfield

January 26, 2016 by Speakers' Spotlight

Colonel Chris Hadfield At Symphony Hall

“Good morning, Earth!” That is how Colonel Chris Hadfield—writing on Twitter—woke up the world every day while living for five months aboard the International Space Station. Through his 21-years as an astronaut, three spaceflights and 2600 orbits of Earth, Colonel Hadfield has become a worldwide sensation, harnessing the power of social media to make outer space accessible to millions and infusing a sense of wonder into our collective consciousness not felt since humanity first walked on the Moon. Called “the most famous astronaut since Neil Armstrong,” Colonel Hadfield continues to bring the marvels of science and space travel to everyone he encounters. Colonel Hadfield has recently been on a speaking tour in the UK, and a review of a talk he gave at Symphony Hall in Birmingham follows below, along with some feedback from the Twitterverse:

Canadian astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield gave space enthusiasts an insight into what it’s like to leave the planet and live in orbit during a talk at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, last night.

He also revealed that rock icon David Bowie had told him of his delight that the guitar-playing spaceman had performed his classic song Space Oddity on the International Space Station (ISS) – an internet sensation that has now been watched 30 million  times.

Now a great communicator for the space industry, Colonel Hadfield was inspired to aim towards the stars by watching the moon landings as a child. At the time Canada didn’t even have a space programme but that didn’t stop him building a career in the military and aviation that sent him ever upwards towards that apparently impossible goal.

He went on to be Canada’s first astronaut and spent 166 days in space. He flew on the Space Shuttle to Russian space station Mir and to the ISS. Then on the cramped Russian Soyuz capsule for his most famous and longest stint in space, nearly half a year aboard the ISS when he served as commander.

Under the banner The Sky Is Not The Limit, the former fighter pilot gave an inspiring talk about the qualities required to achieve goals, which can be summed up as: perseverance, preparation and competence.

He also revealed fascinating facts about his literally out-of-this-world experiences and how they have changed his perspective on life, that he no longer looks at the world as ‘them and us’ but just ‘us’.

Illustrated with video and photos, the 59-year-old gave an enthralling account of what it is like to take off sitting atop what is basically a giant bomb, then flung from gravity’s grasp by the 80 million horsepower needed to send the space shuttle into orbit.

He spoke with joy about the experience of weightlessness (‘a toy that never winds down’) and with awe of the time he briefly floated free in space during a spacewalk, when it was just him and the universe.

He also revealed that the astronaut’s mantra is ‘what is going to kill me next’ during a regime of training, checking and rechecking systems and instruments.

He added with wry humour that sometimes Mission Control felt like a typical Help Desk, usually putting you on hold.

Once in space he did utter that famous phrase ‘Houston we have a problem’ after an ammonia leak threatened to shut down the station and a spacewalk was organised in a fraction of the usual time to repair the leak. He also revealed that an apparently routine computer upgrade killed power on the ISS until the astronauts carried out a manual reboot. Astronauts have to be self-reliant.

During a question-and-answer session, Hadfield was asked if the crew of the ISS could relax and have a drink, to which he replied that in the dangerous environment of space every crew member is ‘the designated driver’.

He also revealed that reusable rockets could drive down the cost of space travel and lead to a new generation of satellites creating worldwide wi-fi, and his belief that mankind would return to the moon and create a lunar base.

On the inevitable ‘aliens’ question, he said the universe was so vast that the odds were most definitely in favour of life existing elsewhere, though close enough to interact with us was a different matter.

Returning to his theme about Birmingham being a city of invention, innovation and great engineering, he saw the sum of man’s achievement leading to the ISS: “our testbed for exploring the universe.”

And, of course, the 90-minute Evening with Chris Hadfield, ended with his tribute to Bowie, strumming and singing Space Oddity…. Planet Earth is blue, and he should know after orbiting it 16 times a day at 17,500mph.

Chris Hadfield shares his experiences and life lessons in the international best-selling book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.

By Leon Burakowski/Native Monster/January, 2016

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