Filed Under:

Astronaut Chris Hadfield's Most Excellent Adventure

Chris Hadfield went from feeling truly sublime to faintly ridiculous this week.

He landed after spending 146 days in space, most as commander of the International Space Station. But he says as soon as his Soyuz plonked down on the soil of Kazakhstan, "I could feel the weight of my lips and tongue and had to change how I was talking. I didn't realize I had learned to talk with a weightless tongue."

Chris Hadfield said that after nearly five months of floating, his feet had lost all cushioning and calluses, so on these, his first days back, "I was walking around like I was walking on hot coals ..."

Mr. Hadfield is 53, a slender and mustachioed former Royal Canadian Air Force colonel, and the first Canadian to command the International Space Station. He may never be mentioned in the same sentence as Yuri Gagarin or Neil Armstrong. But Chris Hadfield has become one of the best-known astronauts of contemporary times because he's shared what he's seen and felt with a Twitter following that's grown to almost a million, and he's used the bay of the International Space Station as a kind of celestial garage to put on a show.

He performed an electronic concert from orbit, playing his guitar and singing with the group Barenaked Ladies and thousands of school students to encourage young people to love music. He laid down his own rendition of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" — "earth is blue and there's nothing I can do" — with the earth rolling by in a window behind — or is that below? — him.

And he snapped a lot of photographs, orbit after orbit: thunderstorms boiling over the Amazon, soft pearly swirls of ocean around Cape Town, vast mining pits gashed into the red soil of China, and North America's Great Lakes framed in a single shot, tweeting pictures the way a man on vacation might send back shots of both the Lincoln Memorial and a diner with a huge inflatable donut on its roof.

To see his photographs every day, almost every hour, was to be reminded that sunrise and sunset are part of the same master plan.

"It's part of our humanity to be in space," he wrote in Russian, and just before plunging back into earth's atmosphere he said, in French and English, "I came here on behalf of so many people — thank you." Which is why, said Chris Hadfield, it was important for him to send back messages: "It's just too good an experience to keep to yourself."

Chris Hadfield's Most Excellent Space Mission reminded us, in a way, of something human beings can do in space that, so far, machines can't: be amazed.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

A Colombian Kingpin Gets The 'Goodfellas' Treatment In 'Narcos'

A new, fictionalized Netflix series tells the story of how smuggler Pablo Escobar built his cocaine empire. The show is compelling and complex — especially for fans of classic crime stories.
NPR

Philly Preps Blessed Beer And Other Edible Swag To Greet Pope Francis

Enterprising businesses will mark the pope's visit to Philadelphia next month with irreverent tchotchkes — including beers brewed with holy water and toasters that etch the pontiff's face on bread.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour - August 28, 2015

We chat with D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier about the city's strategy to combat the spike in violent crime taking place in the nation's capital.

NPR

New Tesla Breaks Consumer Reports' Ratings Scale, Bolsters Company's Stock

"It kind of broke the system," says Jake Fisher, director of the magazine's auto test division. Tesla's stock rose 8 percent Thursday.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.