Hadfield’s Star Rises High with Return to Earth

Astronaut returns as the Canadian Space Agency faces challenges

By: Sarah Hartwick, Staff Writer

Image courtesy of lestudio1.com

Image courtesy of lestudio1.com

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield sang his goodbyes to the International Space Station on Sunday night with his own version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

The video, created by Hadfield and his son Evan, features the astronaut portraying the fictional ‘Major Tom,’ singing and playing his guitar. Shots of his performance, as he floats “in a most peculiar way,” are interspersed with scenes of the Earth below.

On Monday, the first Canadian commander of the space station returned to Earth with crew members Roman Romanenko and Tom Marshburn, landing on the Kazakhstan steppes in a Russian Soyuz space capsule.

Hadfield has gained status as a social media darling and celebrity spaceman over the course of his five-month mission, tweeting stunning pictures of Earth taken from the space station. He also posted a series of videos, documenting his day-to-day life, from downtime playing his guitar to the insides of an astronaut’s lunchbox.  His twitter feed now boasts 860,000 followers.

Hadfield isn’t the only astronaut with a knack for social media. NASA’s Twitter account has just over four million followers, and American astronaut Karen Nyberg, who will be on the space station for Expeditions 36 and 37, is a frequent tweeter.

Unfortunately, Canadians will be taking a break from direct space exploration. As it stands, the Canadian Space Agency’s interim head Gilles Leclerc has told the media that no Canadians are scheduled to man the station until 2016 at the earliest.

The wave of popularity comes at a conflicted time for the space agency. It faced budget cuts and controversies throughout the past year, culminating in January as former astronaut Steve MacLean left his post as president of the agency to begin research work on quantum physics. His departure followed a panel review on aerospace led by former Conservative cabinet minister David Emerson.

Although the review called for Canada to better sell its aerospace program on a global scale, it also condemned the agency’s handling of a project meant to provide Canada with three new observation satellites.

Sarah Hartwick is a freelance writer, an avid traveler, and a self-confessed crazy cat lady. In her spare time, she sits on the board of a growing NGO that’s striving to spread access to education throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Check out her blog to follow her adventures around the globe.


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