VIU’s Malaspina Theatre filled up with eager students and faculty on a sunny afternoon on October 20. The sold-out event hosted Colonel Chris Hadfield, engineer, musician, author, YouTuber, public speaker, and first Canadian astronaut to walk in space.
With a long list of achievements under his belt, Hadfield has continued his support of learning by visiting and Skyping with students of all ages across Canada to inspire and remind young learners of their unlimited potential.
Hadfield began by explaining to the audience what it was like to put on the spacesuit every day, a process that took almost four hours. “Have something to eat,” he said. “There’s no food in the suit and you’re going to be in it for about ten hours.”
Hadfield used realistic metaphors to illustrate his spacewalk in a very attainable way that made listeners feel like they had experienced it themselves. He took the audience out, easily creating a vivid picture of the spacewalk, and the moments he had with the universe, himself, and NASA.
“You’re holding onto the spaceship with one hand,” Hadfield says, “and this whole world, this gigantic world is turning next to you. It is every colour and texture that exists.”
“It is so visually powerful that it stops thought,” he adds. “It is stupefying.”
The universe, he says, as you turn your head away from Earth, is so “velvety black” it feels like, if you stuck your hand out, it would come back “covered in the universe.”
Keeping the enormity of space light-hearted, Hadfield joked,“If you get the chance to do a spacewalk, I really recommend it.” Hadfield dreamed of being an astronaut at nine years old, after watching the moon landing on TV. However, Canada did not have a space program.
Hadfield went into Air Cadets, learning to fly gliders and power planes in his teens; continued to military college at Royal Roads University, joining the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF); and then exchanged to the University of Tennessee Space Institute.
“I have been incredibly privileged as a Canadian,” he said. “People have taught me things my whole life.”
Hadfield believes that because of the opportunities given to him, visiting schools nationally allows him to inspire Canadian youth to stop limiting themselves at an early age, eliminating the possibilities for their futures.
“Part of my responsibility as a Canadian is to let other people see the fringe possibilities that actually exist, that our country has built, as choices that we can make.”
- An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth Book Review
- Chris Hadfield on Youtube