Astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield: a very down to earth kind of guy

Astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield touched down at The Burt Wed. evening. /PHOTO: Doug Kretchmer

Chris Hadfield brought his Canada 150 Tour to The Burt last night. After three trips into space, with his last one lasting five months from December 2012 to May 2013, the space traveler shared his experiences with the spellbound audience.

Pink Floyd’s chart topping album Dark Side of the Moon was playing as the theatre patrons took their seats.

The show started out with news clips from around the world after Col. Hadfield’s return to earth, before he hit the stage to thunderous applause. He talked about the history of the world and humankind’s natural inclination to explore, imagine and improve their lives.

He talked about early humans making tools out of rocks, one of which he pulled out of his pocket which he said was a million years old. It was a stone that had been sharpened like an axe head.

He also spoke of the many explorers who made long journeys on ships to find new lands. He likened modern day astronauts in spaceships to the early explorers in ships sailing the seas.

“We are a species with imagination…We can imagine something that doesn’t exist,” Col. Hadfield said.

Travelling 250 miles above the earth’s surface at 17,500 mph, one orbit takes 92 minutes. /PHOTO: Doug Kretchmer

“We take the best technology that we can possibly come up with and we try and apply it to improve our quality of life to make it a better world for ourselves and hopefully a slightly better world for our children.”

I found the talk to be quite fascinating as he used photographs from space as well as time lapse video images to illustrate what has been going on in the Arctic as the ice caps have started to melt away since 1984.

A computer generated image of Canada during the ice age 25,000 years ago was compared to Winnipeg in February.

He spoke about how when he was a young boy in Moose Jaw, he watched the early space missions on television and dreamed of one day being an astronaut.

He picked up his acoustic guitar a few times during the evening and shared his songs, including a song he wrote about Canadian Tire which a friend videotaped. The tape was sent to the company prompting them to send him $100… in Canadian Tire money.

There was an intermission in the middle of the three hour talk and at the end of each session the house lights were lit up and he took questions from the audience. One fellow shared how he watched the video of the space ship returning to earth and how he looked like he had been run over by a truck.

After being in space for five months your body goes through major changes (Mr. Hadfield likened it to being in a big bowl of jelly).

A young fellow asked the Canadian astronaut how long it took to get back to normal after he came back. Your balance is completely changed, explained Hadfield. After two weeks he was able to drive. After four weeks he was able to run. It took a year and a half for his skeleton to regrow as his bones became very weak.

Col. Hadfield’s son sent him a message in space requesting him to make a video of himself playing the acoustic guitar and singing David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity”. He didn’t like the idea at first as the character in the song dies but that changed after his friend Emm Gryner tweaked the lyrics a bit (with Mr. Bowie’s blessings) so that Major Tom returns safely to earth. By the time Hadfield returned to earth, seven million people had seen the video.

A few songs were sung including David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. /PHOTO: Doug Kretchmer

Well, by now more than 50 million people have seen the video and David Bowie was absolutely thrilled that one of his earliest songs that he wrote at 19 years old, was performed in space.

At the end of the evening, Hadfield asked the audience which song they wanted to hear, “In Canada” or “Space Oddity”. “Space Oddity” won out. One of the lines that was changed was, “Planet Earth is blue and there’s so much more to do.” Indeed there is. Modern day explorers and researchers like Col. Hadfield are truly inspiring human beings.

I couldn’t resist buying his book of space photographs ‘You Are Here- Around the World in 92 Minutes’. The title is a reference to the time it takes the Space Shuttle to circle the earth 250 miles above the surface at 17,500 miles an hour. (Samantha from Coles Bookstore brought a stack of his four books to his hotel room earlier in the day where he signed about 100 of them).

A few of the fans were lucky enough to meet the space explorer after the show…

… including yours truly…

… at which time he personalized the autographed book I bought of his space photos. Isn’t that the coolest autograph?

I was very fortunate to have met Mr. Hadfield at the end of the show along with about 10 others who posed for photos and got his autograph.

Joel Impey told me he had met Mr. Hadfield last time he was here. He had prepared a little speech back then, but when he met the space traveler, he was absolutely tongue tied to be meeting this Canadian living legend. The words came out this time though.

A wonderful evening with a very down to earth fellow who has been out of this world.

In 2014, Billie & I met one of Mr. Hadfield’s astronaut colleagues, Roberta Bondar at an exhibit of her photographs. She was fascinated with my fine feathered friend and very happy to receive a feather gift from Billie

Doug Kretchmer


Doug's artistic endeavours include photography, video art, drawing, poetry and acting. He also has a background in alternative radio in Vancouver where he produced and programmed a radio show from 1997 to 2001. He is involved in Winnipeg's art scene as an active member of Ace Art, Art From the Heart, Platform Gallery and as a producer member of Videopool, where he served as a board member from 2003 to 2009. He is enjoying writing for the CNC, sharing stories and giving a voice to people who might not otherwise be heard.

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