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Oct 08, 2015

   

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We got to talk to Canada’s most famous astronaut Chris Hadfield

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‘The human existence is an immensely shared, common thing’: Chris Hadfield

Being an astronaut helps put things in perspective.

For retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the former commander of the International Space Station, seeing the Earth from a vantage point only a select few have ever experienced, helped solidify his view that as human beings, we are more alike than we are different.

“The human existence is an immensely shared, common thing,” Hadfield told NorthernLife.ca in an interview this week in advance of his talk at Laurentian University. “We all basically have the same hopes and dreams.

“If you live in Sudbury you tend to sort of think of Sudbury as reality and everything else as a little bit imaginary. It’s just natural. But if you’re over Sudbury, and 20 minutes later you’re over Timbuktu, and 20 minutes later you’re over Perth, Australia, then you just can’t help but have it seep into you that we’re all the same.”

Hadfield is scheduled to share his unique experience with a sold-out crowd at Laurentian on Friday night.

From the start of his 21-year career with the Canadian Space Agency, the celebrated astronaut said it was always important for him to reach out to the public and share his experience so that he might inspire others to achieve greatness.

Hadfield said he still fondly remembers when NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.

“I thought that was one of the most amazing things humans have ever done,” he said.

It was also, in Hadfield’s words, the first example of unfiltered “reality television” to strike a chord with millions of viewers.

That moment helped cement his dream to become an astronaut, and during his three space missions, he made it a priority to reach out to millions of people back on Earth.

“On my third flight, the technology had become advanced enough that you could share in real time,” he said.

Hadfield used social media – especially his Twitter account, which now has more than 1.4 million followers – to share photos from orbit, and his experience from the International Space Station.

Since his return to Earth, and subsequent retirement, he has continued to reach out to the public.

Hadfield estimates he has spoken to more than 1,000 schools throughout his career and following his retirement from the Canadian Space Agency.

He continues to actively use social media, and on Sept. 16 famously reached out to Texas teen Ahmed Mohamed, who was suspended from school, and arrested, after he brought in a clock he had made that his teacher through was a bomb.

When the news broke around the world, Hadfield reached out to Mohamed and invited him to the Generator talk he is hosting in Toronto on Oct. 28.

“When we saw that story unfolding, we were just really disappointed at some really limited thinking, and also at the impact it was going to have specifically for Ahmed,” Hadfield said. “For him to be thrown out of school because of his excited invention – I just wanted him to see not everyone is going to judge him the same way and that some people support him.”

Hadfield said Mohamed and his family did respond to his message, but they could not confirm yet if he would be able to make it to Toronto for the event.

But before he takes the stage in Toronto, Hadfield will give the Glencore Memorial Lecture at Laurentian’s Fraser Auditorium on Oct. 9.

His talk starts at 7 p.m., but only those who got tickets early will be able to attend.

Jonathan Migneault

Staff Writer Northern Life