With a wave of interstellar developments in the news lately, astronaut Chris Hadfield has once again been called upon for his expertise and insight on all things space-related. He was asked for comment on why Mars exploration matters, what he made of the swirling discussion about UFOs in the media, and to offer some thoughts on the passing of Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins.
Most recently, Chris appeared on CBC radio to talk about the importance of Mars for scientific research. The newest rover to join its fellow remote explorers on our neighbouring red planet is China’s Zuhrong rover. Its mission, like the others, is to collect data, collect samples, and search for evidence of life in any form. Chris said the similarities between Earth and Mars are one of primary reasons for these missions.
“Why are we trying to land on Mars? Well, I think the fundamental question is that Mars was a lot like Earth four billion years ago when life first formed on Earth,” he told Cross Country Checkup guest host Jason D’Souza on Sunday.
“So if it happened here, did it happen there? And it will be evident somewhere in the geologic record.”
The rovers currently traversing Mars are conducting research and taking samples from the ground. If a rover finds one fossil, Hadfield said, “we will know we’re not alone in the universe.”
Chris added that great care is taken not to disturb or pollute the Martian ecosystem, especially if any kind “intelligent or advanced life” was to be discovered.
Naturally, this discussion led to a call-in question later in the program about the resurgent conversation around Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs or UAP, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena). Numerous news articles have been published over the past few months regarding videos and statements from US military pilots, and 60 Minutes even aired a program examining UFO sightings in the US. Chris provided a frank assessment, coming from first-hand experience as both a test pilot and astronaut.
“Obviously, I’ve seen countless things in the sky that I don’t understand,” said Hadfield, a former pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force and U.S. navy.
“But to see something in the sky that you don’t understand and then to immediately conclude that it’s intelligent life from another solar system is the height of foolishness and lack of logic.”
Hadfield acknowledged the existence of extraterrestrial life is worth thinking about, and that it’s likely that there is life in other parts of the universe.
“But definitively up to this point, we have found no evidence of life anywhere except Earth, and we’re looking,” he said.
On a more sombre subject, Chris was a guest on the BBC last month to talk about the legacy of Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins following his death at the age of 90. Collins piloted the Apollo 11 command module in 1969 while his crewmates, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, became the first people to walk on the moon. Chris paid respect to the late astronaut, lauding his accomplishments and highlighting Collins’s autobiography, Carrying the Fire, as an inspiration to him as a young man. He also highlighted the lasting impact of the Apollo 11 mission, inspiring people around the world.
“We should all try and live lives as well as Michael Collins did,” Chris said.
Chris also talked briefly about the renewed interest in international scientific missions to the moon, both for the purpose of research and to possibly tap resources (including water) that have been found on the satellite. Canada itself has just announced this week that it is planning to launch a lunar rover in the next five years.
Referred to as “the most famous astronaut since Neil Armstrong,” Colonel Chris Hadfield is a worldwide sensation whose video of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” — seen by over 75 million people — was called “possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created”, by Bowie himself. Acclaimed for making outer space accessible to millions, and for infusing a sense of wonder into our collective consciousness not felt since humanity first walked on the Moon, Chris continues to bring the marvels of science and space travel to everyone he encounters.