From Sarnia to the ISS: Hadfield shares experiences with lecture at UW

Chris Hadfield at UW (Kate Turner)
Hadfield took the stage on Tuesday to speak to students, faculty and the public about his experiences on the ISS. (Photo by Kate Turner)

The former commander of the International Space Station (ISS) has arrived, but to a place that is a little closer to home.

“It’s an amazing experience to fly in space, to leave the Earth, to float weightless, and to see the globe every 90 minutes,” explained Commander Chris Hadfield during a lecture at the University of Waterloo (UW) on Tuesday.

“But no place feels like home to me except Southern Ontario. It’s so nice to be back.”

It was announced back in October that the famed astronaut would be teaching as an adjunct professor of aviation within the faculties of science, environment and applied health sciences at UW. To help introduce this new career path, Hadfield decided to speak to students, faculty and the general public about his experiences in space.

And it wasn’t easy for the ambitious Canadian from Sarnia, Ont. (later Milton, Ont.) to make it to the top post of running the ISS — the first for someone from this country.

“The real piece here is, ‘how do you get on one?’” Hadfield said while explaining the mechanics of a shuttle that was once used by NASA.

“Especially if you’re just this little Canadian kid who grew up in Southern Ontario — how do you get from here to there? How do you dream of something and then turn it into reality?”

Hadfield then shared to the crowd his upbringing as a young Canadian, and how he joined the Air Cadet program in Canada and eventually became a military pilot. But Canada, at the time, wasn’t the best place for a young aspiring astronaut.

“There were no Canadian role models, there was zero chance [of getting to space],” Hadfield said his time growing up. “There was no Canadian astronaut program whatsoever.”

However, Hadfield didn’t give up and set his focus on becoming an astronaut no matter how long or how hard it took — one of the large pieces of advice he passed on to many of the young people in the lecture hall.

“The real key, especially for the students here, is of course that nothing in the future is guaranteed,” he continued. “But the only real guarantee is if you don’t turn yourself into the person that you want to be then you just zeroed out your chances.”

In addition, the retired astronaut also shared many of the challenging — and often times hilarious — moments of his career in space, even the awkward moments such as wearing a diaper when getting suited up.

Hadfield obviously knows that working at the ISS for about five months isn’t a walk in the park, so he explained to the audience how he prepared his team for every possible outcome — especially failure. That preparation was put to the test when two of his team members had to perform a space walk with only one day’s notice.

“Start practicing for all things that might fail, and we did that for technical problems [and] psychological problems,” added Hadfield.

It’s time for Hadfield to take another leap, but this time to becoming a professor. He will begin teaching at UW in the fall of 2014 and will continue teaching until 2016.

But when an audience member asked if his dreams while sleeping at the ISS were set in space, it was quite evident that Hadfield seemed to have very fond memories of living in space.

“The daytime [in space] is like a dream,” he said.


Leave a Reply