Colonel Chris Hadfield is probably the most famous Canadian astronaut ever. And after playing and shooting a music video of David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity” from the International Space Station, he might be the most famous astronaut of our era. But Hadfield’s story is also about farm life in Canada, testing the limits of our aviation technology around the world, and the behind the scenes journey to travel outside our atmosphere. It’s all in his new book, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.”
Hadfield got his start during the Cold War as a test pilot in Canada. From those beginnings, he probably never imagined he would one day hitch a ride to space with Russian cosmonauts. Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson asked Hadfield about the differences between the way Russia approaches technology compared to the West.
“In Russian, almost philosophy of engineering, better is the enemy of good enough,” Hadfield says. “The Russians came up with a really beautiful, elegant design — their initial spaceship. And, they flew it, and then they flew it again and they flew it again. And then they went, ‘Let’s change this one thing.’ It’s almost like a sculpture, where you’ve had a master in who has looked at the sculpture and thought about it, and then chipped away just a tiny, little piece.”
While the basic design of the Russian spaceship hasn’t changed much through the years, other technology has. Hadfield’s use of social media on his last journey to space catapulted him to global fame. But he says his desire to share his incredible experiences existed long before YouTube and Twitter came into existence.
“My first flight in space was a long time ago. On that flight, I was just as motivated to try and share the experience with everybody around the world — but the technology had not been invented yet,” he says. “Now, I can snap a picture, float down the space station, and within minutes, a million people could look at it if they want to.”
Hadfield hopes that view from space can inspire others in the same way it inspired him, and given him a unique perspective.
“You just start to see the world as one big continuum. And, I started to see cities the same way, in that our patterns of settlement are the same worldwide. We find a place that is hospitable, and we live there, and that sense of connectiveness [sic] starts to become pervasive within yourself. And I found after a month or two up there, and I was sending a tweet — here’s a picture of Karachi, and this is where 7 million of us live. And I didn’t even think about it… And you just start to see the whole world as ‘us.’ And for me, it was an immensely deepening experience and good experience to see the world that way.”