By Nicole Clark
Few people have lived on the ocean floor or high above Earth. Chris Hadfield has done both.
As he took the stage at the Centre in the Square Nov. 16, the audience rose and cheered the retired Canadian astronaut who rocketed to fame in 2013 when he was commander of the International Space Station (ISS) for five months – during which time he would see the entirety of the Earth in just 92 minutes, 16 times per day.
The audience was visibly in awe of the man who has seen and experienced so much, and they were ready to take in all he had to offer them as the show began.
Hadfield went right into a song and spent the majority of the show playing his guitar and singing with short anecdotes in between.
“Part of being an explorer is leaving home,” he said before beginning a song about Canadian Tire.
He spoke of his family history, including moving to Moosejaw and the alarming number of infant deaths that came with relocating to the West. His uncle’s son, Austen, was one of the many children to pass away during that time and is the person from whom Hadfield received his middle name.
He also discussed when his inspiration to become an astronaut first appeared. He told of how much he enjoyed the stories of comic book protagonist, Buck Rogers, and fictional captain of the Starship Enterprise, Captain Kirk. Though these two were what ignited the passion for heroes in space travel, they were fictional and there were not any real-life role models to look up to in the field at the time. That is, until July 20, 1969 when, just shy of his 10th birthday, Hadfield watched as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon.
“That was real, that wasn’t pretend. That was something that actually happened. And so, to me, that was like a slap in the face of opportunity,” he said. After watching the event take place on his parents’ television, he went outside and looked up at the night sky to see the moon and there the passion fanned into flame.
Hadfield was the first Canadian to walk in space, earning two EVAs, also known as extravehicular activity, for the two trips that totalled 14 hours, 53 minutes and 38 seconds. He has also escorted Soviet bombers out of Canadian airspace and has lived in a research vessel at the bottom of the ocean. He is also a published author with Postcards from Space, and You Are Here, a book of photos he captured of the Earth while aboard the ISS, as well as more recently, a children’s book called, The Darkest Dark.
Despite all of the extraordinary things he has done, Hadfield was able to create an atmosphere for his audience that was down to earth, more closely resembling a coffee house performance with its lowered lighting and guitar accompaniment.
Hadfield ended the night with a short question and answer period.
“What is your favourite NHL hockey team?” was asked by a little voice in the front of the theatre.
Hadfield answered with an anecdote of how his grandfather was a physical trainer for the Toronto Maple Leafs and so he is a fan of the blue and white.
“Are you allowed to bring phones into space?” another small voice asked.
He said it wouldn’t really work, that there are too many cell towers for the phone to be usable in space.
A final question, this time from someone in the balcony, was, “What would be your best advice to get people interested in science?”
Hadfield said science is just organized curiosity. He told the audience to feed their curiosity and that maybe a better question to ask children would be, “What do you want to change?” instead of the generic, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Hadfield finished with a song and then another after a standing ovation and encore request by the audience who were thrilled to be in the presence of a man who has made history.