Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut who captivated the world and cultivated a popular interest in outer space through his use of social media, spoke at the Winnipeg Convention Center (WCC) on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Hadfield’s speech, hosted by the Canadian Society of Association Executives, dealt with the shuttle blast-off, his time spent in orbit, and the descent back to Earth.
Hadfield told the WCC crowd that he dreamed about becoming an astronaut as a child. The exact date he decided to become an astronaut was July 20, 1969; it was about a month before he turned 10 and the day humans landed on the moon for the first time. He had no idea how to realize his dream, however, because Canada did not have a space program at the time.
Hadfield explained that many obstacles stood between him and his objective. For a time he, his wife, and three children faced financial troubles. He considered giving up, but his wife encouraged him to continue.
“Getting from the impossible to the possible is what we face on a regular basis,” said Hadfield
The International Space Station (ISS) was a wonderful place to be, remarked Hadfield, likening it to the first navigation ships to venture from the coast of Europe.
Hadfield told the audience he has orbited around the world 2,500 times, and the most photogenic portion of the Earth is the blue and green-hued Bahamas.
“If travelling in space, remember to take photos of the Bahamas,” he quipped.
Aerial photographs of Earth cycled on a slideshow presentation behind him. He included images of Winnipeg as well as shots of the Great Lakes.
Hadfield said there is nothing like the Australian Outback, which looks like an impressionist painting, since most of the ground has been pounded flat.
Hadfield said the space station provided an ideal position to view both the Earth and the galaxy in general. He stated that experts are unsure what approximately three-quarters of the universe is made of. In order to answer questions about its composition, trillions of high-energy particles from the stars must be detected and analyzed.
Hadfield described ways in which international collaborative projects like the ISS bring people from around the world together.
“The space station is something the world is doing together, and is doing right. Any kids from around the world can look up and see something that unites countries,” said Hadfield.
While in space, Hadfield sharpened his skills as a leader, commanding others who spoke different languages and were from different cultures. He learned from the mistakes of his predecessors; he then simulated, practiced under stressful circumstances, and worked to gain a mutual trust with the individuals he led.
Hadfield talked about social media – the fact that it gets a bad reputation with some, and how we mostly use it wrong.
“Social media is a part of you. It’s an opportunity to be honest. Everyone is telling you what [he or she] thinks and wants. It’s like a conversation around the table. It can really be effective and is good to show perspective,” said Hadfield.
Almost one million people around the world now follow Hadfield on twitter, largely a result of his tweeting and photography from the ISS. He said the number one thing followers wanted was a photograph of their hometown, but that a lot of cities look the same. For him, this sameness reinforced the idea that we are all the same and are looking for the same things.