November 13, 2013
Was Astronaut Chris Hadfield Thrown Out Of Gravity?
The brilliant, handsome, and talented Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield was almost certainly not ejected from a movie theatre for heckling Gravity, contrary to Internet reports you may have heard to the contrary.
The admittedly hilarious story appeared on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, and the fact that it was obviously satire was lost on more than a few people.
How can you tell if an Internet story is satire? Here’s a clue: The story appears on a website called www.thebeaverton.com. Their top stories the last time I checked? “Police recover video of Vancouver Mayor smoking what appears to be salmon,” and “Study: 100% of restaurants know you’re ordering the second cheapest wine on a first date.”
Of course, if you only read the article in question, you should have instantly realized it was satire when you read this line: “During one crucial and deathly silent scene involving Sandra Bullock’s character’s desperate attempt to reach her vessel and avoid dying in the void of space, the man who brought honour and fun to Canadian space exploration let out a long, piercing, and altogether perfect fart.”
Kudos to Ian MacIntyre for his hilarious prose, but any mention of a well-known public figure releasing an “altogether perfect fart” should have immediately clued you in to the article’s satirical nature. My favorite reaction to the article was a close friend of mine commenting on Facebook (with deadly seriousness) that he thought Hadfield “had more class than that.”
Aside from fooling otherwise intelligent people into thinking it was real news, I think the most exciting thing about the article is that Hadfield has now reached a rare and enviable level of fame for a Canadian: being worthy of Internet satire.
Chris Hadfield is easily one of my favorite astronauts of all time; comparable only to the late great US astronaut Sally Ride, and Laika, the canine cosmonaut and first mammal in space. In addition to his recent fame as the good-natured target of satire (judging by the ~305,000 Facebook likes of MacIntyre’s article) here are a few more reasons Hadfield is one of the most impressively awesome beings to “have slipped the surly bonds of Earth.”
Before becoming an astronaut, which is already an insanely difficult feat to achieve, Hadfield had an equally hardcore job as a CF-18 fighter pilot in the 80s. During this time, according to his official CSA biography, he was apparently “the first CF-18 pilot to intercept a Soviet “Bear” aircraft.” The Tupolev Tu-95 is basically a four-engined nuclear death carrier, and while the CSA biography is sparse on the details of the encounter, I can only imagine it went an awful lot like this (potentially NSFW Top Gun clip).
At this point, Hadfield’s career was already more exciting than 99% of the earth’s population. However, it was only the beginning for him. After flying “over 70 different types of aircraft,” he took his skills off-planet to become arguably the most accomplished Canadian astronaut of all time. In addition to serving as a Mission Specialist on two space shuttle missions, Hadfield recently served as the first Canadian commander of the ISS. Spending several months orbiting the earth every 90 minutes gave him a great opportunity to capture some truly amazing photographs, and these stunning photos were one of the major reasons for his meteoric popularity on Twitter. He still routinely posts on Twitter, and you can see a pretty good sample of some of his photos here. I should mention that while I’ve never used Twitter myself, my mother counts herself as one of Hadfield’s nearly one million followers!
Oh, did I mention that’s he also a rock star?
When he wasn’t busy making awesome videos like this one, or, you know, doing science in space, he was probably playing guitar in zero gravity like a boss. Item number 376 in a ridiculously impressive list of career achievements? Co-writing a song with Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies fame and performing a duet with him from the ISS. The song is called Is Somebody Singing (or “I.S.S.” – see what they did there?) The song is definitely on the cheesy side, and I approached it with a little skepticism, but I’m not ashamed to admit I got a bit of a chill when I first heard Col. Hadfield sing. I remember thinking, “This guy is in charge of the largest man-made structure to ever orbit the earth, he’s traveling hundreds of kilometers above us at an incredibly difficult to fathom speed, and he’s got a decent voice too!”
Of course, if you’re going to be remembered as the world’s first recording musician in space, you should probably do a cover of the greatest rock song about outer space ever written. Naturally I speak of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, and naturally Hadfield did indeed do an amazing cover of the song with an unreal video to boot. If you haven’t seen this yet, you should probably seriously reconsider your Internet browsing priorities. Just kidding. But seriously, watch this video.
Now, I certainly don’t mean to detract from the accomplishments of the hundreds of other men and women from around the world who have braved the terrifying emptiness of space in the interests of science and human discovery, but there is obviously something that sets Hadfield apart from the explorers who came before him. Put simply, I think Chris Hadfield has reached out to us earth-bound ordinary people in a way that has never been done before. He isn’t the first astronaut to talk about his adventures, but I think it’s safe to say that he’s the first person to do it to such a widespread and diverse audience. Hadfield has fully embraced social media, and instead of seeking personal fame he has inspired and influenced millions of people.
In addition to his frequent Twitter posts, Hadfield has participated in several AMA (or Ask me Anything) sessions on reddit. The format is simple: any reddit user can submit a question, and other users vote on which questions they find the most interesting, but ultimately the person being interviewed chooses which questions they want to respond to. AMAs on reddit are often hilarious and informative, but all too often they are just another PR stop for actors or musicians with a new project coming out. Chris Hadfield, on the other hand, distinguished himself with his intelligent, thoughtful, poetic, often humorous, and always genuine answers to a huge variety of questions. I strongly encourage you to read his own words, both just before his departure from earth and while he was orbiting aboard the I.S.S.
Of course, if you can’t pull yourself away from my captivating and unabashed praise of his work, here’s two of my favourite quotes:
When asked if being in space made him hate anything about earth, Hadfield replied that it in fact made him want to take better care of the planet. He added, “I try not to hate anything – it’s rarely a motivator to do something good.”
Naturally, many people also asked him for advice on becoming an astronaut, and instead of regurgitating the standard “follow your dreams” or “believe in yourself” clichés, Hadfield dropped this spectacular bomb:
“Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.”
Image Credit: Warner Bros.