Inspiring the next generation of astronauts

Inspiring the next generation of astronauts

When Chris Hadfield was young child, he would lie down in his bunk bed on his back, draw his knees up to his chest, and pretend to fly spaceships.

There was a sense of wonder for the young Hadfield, who was growing up just as space flight was transitioning from science fiction to a reality with the Apollo missions.

It was that sense of wonder and inspiration from Neil Armstrong and a love of comic books and Star Trek, that nurtured his dream of one day becoming an astronaut and going to outer space.

Hadfield, in Cranbrook last week to give a presentation to local students at Western Financial Place, is one of Canada’s most decorated astronauts who went to space in three separate missions and was commander of the International Space Station during his final trip.

Hadfield regaled the crowd with tales of his experiences growing up and the importance of making good choices that lead to reaching your goals.

A powerful message to deliver to young students.

As a young teenager who was born in Sarnia, Ontario, Hadfield joined Air Cadets and acquired his pilots license and was flying before he had his drivers license.

From there, he joined the Canadian military and learned and trained on fighter jet aircraft such as the CF-18.

After watching the first intake of Canadian astronaut recruited by NASA in 1983 — a class of six, including Marc Garneau and Roberta Bondar, from a pool of 4,000 applicants — Hadfield realized his goal of travelling to space was tangible and real.

A decade later, Hadfield was accepted into the next wave of Canadian astronaut recruitment with four others, including recently appointed Governor General Julie Payette, in 1992 out of a pool of 5,000 hopefuls.

Over a 20-year span, Hadfield was involved with NASA in various capacities, including his role as voice of mission control and as an astronaut, travelling to Mir, a Soviet era space lab, in 1995 and the ISS in 2001 and 2012.

While it’s easy to be overwhelmed by his resume and career accomplishments, it was his stories that captivated the audience.

Hadfield described what it was like to be sitting in the space shuttle as it was launching, demonstrating on stage by laying on his back with his feet in the air as he explained the incredible amount of thrust generated by the booster rockets.

“It’s stupid,” Hadfield told the crowd — his point being that astronauts are all but sitting on a controlled explosion that can’t be turned off once the rockets are fired up.

During his time as commander as the ISS, Hadfield said the station completed orbit of the entire planet once every 90 minutes. Over his three missions in space, the Canadian astronaut has been around the world over 2,600 times.

Preparation and training is the key to ensuring smooth operations on board, however, sometimes things can take an unexpected turn.

Hadfield recalled when he was working on an experiment only days before a new Dragon capsule was expected to dock with the station to take him home.

Pavel Vinogradov, a Russian astronaut, came barrelling through the station and found Hadfield, speaking in rapid-fire Russian about something he noticed outside the station.

Heading over to a window, both Hadfield and Vinogradov observed something kind of liquid matter leaking but couldn’t pinpoint the source.

What did he tell Mission Control over the radio?

“Houston, we have a problem,” Hadfield reported.

Of course.

Normally, a spacewalk takes a week to plan, but the ISS crew didn’t have a week.

Two astronauts suited up and ventured out to inspect the area in a five-hour spacewalk that involved replacing a pump unit which was leaking liquid ammonia — a coolant for the space station.

However, through all the stories and the photos and videos shared on the projector screen, the most important part of his presentation was serving as a living example that making good choices can help you reach your goals.

Students even got the chance to ask their own questions, and kids always ask the best ones that a journalist just doesn’t think about, or has the mind to ask.

“Have you ever been close to a star?” (No)

“Are you taller when you return from outer space?” (Yes, but only briefly)

“What happens to pee and, uh, other stuff?” (Urine is recycled into drinking water — to a chorus of ‘eewwwwss’ — while fecal matter is stored in a cargo module that, when full, is detached and sent into the atmosphere where it burns up).

Exploration, whether on Earth or in space, is a part of the human experience and technology is constantly evolving to help us understand our place in the cosmic ballet, which was one of the most poignant aspects of Hadfield’s presentaion.

Understanding the planet as a single, large interconnected ecosystem allows for a perspective that is hard to see unless you are observing the Earth from orbit.

Hadfield showed pictures of the barren dry landscapes of Australia, Mount Vesuvius in Italy (that famously exploded and buried Pompeii in ash) and even the Rocky Mountains and the Columbia Basin.

Just as Hadfield was captivated by the moon landing and the burgeoning space travel of the late 1960s, today’s young kids are beginning to be enthralled by the possibility of space travel to Mars, which is becoming more and more a reality.

And who knows, maybe a Cranbrook student will one day become an astronaut and lead a mission to Mars?

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

Seth Rogen’s vibrant orange sculpture was sold for $7,000 above Vancouver Art Gallery’s initial estimation at auction Tuesday. June 15. (Heffel Fine Arts)
Vase made by Seth Rogen sells for $12,000 at Vancouver auction

The B.C.-born comedian has a new pot habit and it’s paying off

BC Lions running back John White IV (3) runs with the ball during first quarter CFL football action against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Saturday, September 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
BC Lions file trademark for new logo

Canadian Football League team files for new design on June 1

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Camper van explosion burns Vancouver Island gas station to the ground

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. The website for a Broadway theatre showing "Springsteen on Broadway" said it would only allow guests "fully vaccinated with an FDA-approved vaccine" — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
No Springsteen for you: AstraZeneca not good enough to qualify for Broadway ticket

Victoria area mayor among those unable to attend New York entertainment due to COVID-19 restriction

The BC Ferries’ website is down for the second time in one week from what they say is likely an overwhelming increase in web traffic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Surging web traffic crashes BC Ferries’ site again

Website down for second time this week

Most Read