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Chris Hadfield to speak live from space with 500 University of Waterloo students


Uploaded on February 15, 2013


Chris Hadfield to speak live from space with 500 University of Waterloo students

2013-02-15 - On February 15, 2013, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield took part in a live space to Earth connection with students from the University of Waterloo.

Hadfield answered questions from students from the six faculties in the presence of Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen, University President and Vice-Chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur, Ian McKenzie, Adjunct Associate Professor and Associate Chair Undergraduate Studies, Aviation and Geomatics Programs, as well as Dr. Richard Hughson, Schlegel Research Chair in Vascular Aging and Brain Health, Professor. Dr. Hughson is the Principal Investigator for two experiments on cardiovascular health currently being performed on the ISS. (Credits: Canadian Space Agency, NASA)


Feridun Hamdullahpur: Station, this is Feridun Hamdullahpur at the University of Waterloo, here with students.

(Cheers, applause)

How do you hear me?

Chris Hadfield: Dr. Hamdullahpur, I read you loud and clear. Welcome on board the International Space Station. How do you hear me?

Feridun Hamdullahpur: We read you loud and clear. I'm here with students. We are delighted to welcome you to the university. I can see him from here. We're delighted to welcome you to the university. We have a group of students who are anxious to ask you questions, so we'll just get on with it. Our first student.

Question: Hi, Chris. My name is Rashmi Vangkadesh (ph). My question is has the sensation of leaving Earth's protective field changed since your first trip into space, and can you describe your feelings -- apprehension, wonder, or fear -- as you left Earth's protective horizon on this mission?

Chris Hadfield: Rashmi, I've been so fortunate to have flown in space not just once but three times, and on different spaceships, and this time to be able to stay for months and months. I would say my apprehension was low. I was more concerned about not going to space than I was about going to space because there are so many complexities in trying to safely leave Earth. I was also sort of the pilot of the Soyuz spaceship, and so a lot of eagerness to put all of that training into practice, to do all the things that so many people have prepared me to do. So it was with a great sense of buoyant energy and readiness that I - that I left Earth's protective sheath, which is just outside that window, and launched up here to the Space Station a couple of months ago. And I've visited space twice before, but this time to live here, the richness of it, the ability and the time to absorb it and wonder about it and internalize it and think of it is magnificent. And so this - this is the difference between landing somewhere at an airport and taking off, and getting off the plane and living there for a while. It's wonderful.

Question: Hi, Chris. My name is Andrew Albertson. I'm fortunate to be involved in the University of Waterloo research that is examining the deconditioning effects of space flight that are similar to accelerated aging. My question is can you tell us about some of the exercise and other countermeasures you used throughout your mission which helped to minimize these changes and prepare your body for a return to gravity?

Chris Hadfield: Thanks, Andrew. There are, of course, as you well know in your studies, a lot of changes - everything. Some very obvious: the fluid shift, my extremely skinny calves that I have right now because of - there's no gravity pushing the fluids into my legs. Some of them are very subtle. My eyes sting a little more up here because they don't drain, ever. So you kind of have more - a sheath of tears in your eyes more often. You can still cry in space, but they just - the tears don't fall. So there's subtle things as well. But the biggest ones, the ones we have to worry the most about, are preparing ourself for coming home and preparing ourself to be strong enough if we have to go outside and fix something.

And as you mentioned, we use countermeasures. The two big ones we have are cardiovascular, and we have both a treadmill and an exercise bicycle, and those get our heart and lungs working and the blood coursing; and then the other is resistive exercise. And of course you can do 10,000 push-ups up here because there's no up, but we have a device, a resistive exercise device, where you're pushing actually against big cylinders that have the air pulled out of them like a vacuum, so you get a nice, linear push against them. And it's a lot like lifting weights. And every single day we spend two hours on those pieces of equipment. The rest of it, we just float around, and you can be as lazy - I mean, I don't even have to hold up my head up here. But for two hours a day, we work hard. If I can get myself back down and - oh! I'm falling all over. I'm right up close. For two hours a day we work hard to keep our bodies in shape, to keep our muscles strong, so that if we have to go outside on a walk, we can operate the spacesuit and, when we land back on Earth again, we'll able to walk and our bones will be strong.

Question: Hi, Chris. My name is Amber Nicholson. My question is, with your unique vantage point in space, are you able to see any evidence of environmental degradation on our planet?

Chris Hadfield: Hi, Amber. We sure are. Some very visual examples, like the Aral Sea, which, because of irrigation changes, an entire inland sea has basically dried up to nothing. And from the first astronauts who flew and took pictures of it to us taking pictures of it now, the difference is striking. All the major cities of the world, the really big ones, normally are grey smears -- the big city, Mexico City, LA, the cities in China, just because of the smog and pollution they create, and you hardly can even see them. And they have trouble looking up at the sky as a result. So you see that. And we also see the glaciers. And we've been taking a lot of pictures in Patagonia of the glaciers as they exist right now, and compare them to historic photographs. So it's -- and when there's a volcanic eruption, and we look at the horizon, you can see the particulate in the upper atmosphere. So it's a wonderful vantage point for long-term monitoring of the Earth's atmosphere and the health of the planet on the surface, yes.

Question: Hi, Chris. My name is Sakshi Jin (ph). My question is, in March you take on the responsibility as commanding the International Space Station. How are you preparing for this role, and how will you handle the stress that comes with the position?

Chris Hadfield: Sakshi, stress is kind of a human emotion. It doesn't really come with the position; it's internal. And the way I try - I try and avoid stress. And the way I avoid it is to try and never be in a position where I don't know what I'm doing, or where I'm asked to do something I'm not qualified for. So in truth, I started training to command the Space Station when I was 14. I was in the Air Cadets, and I went to a junior leaders' course, and they taught me the basic precepts of leadership - at 14 years old, as a young Canadian. And since then, I've watched leaders. And you can learn something from every leader, from - you can learn a lot from the bad ones and a lot from the good ones. And I've also, through the military and then in my 20 years as an astronaut, been given increasing opportunities to manage and to lead people. And that all put me in a position where I could get assigned to command a spaceship, and now I've been training and preparing for that for about four or five years, working with the people on the ground and on the crew, preparing myself, thinking through everything that might happen, so that when the time comes, not only am I not stressed about it but I'm eagerly looking forward to it. This is something I've really worked hard to be prepared for, an unprecedented opportunity personally and professionally and nationally, and I'm just really pleased that I'm in a position and really happy to have the chance to pick up the reins here in about a month.

Question: Hi, Chris. My name is Robert Henderson. My question is what is the most difficult experiment being conducted on the ISS during your mission, and what questions does it aim to answer?

Chris Hadfield: We have - we're running, I think, you know, Robert, about 130 experiments on board. The difficulty is probably the ones that - you know, that affect us personally. Some of the complex ones are running on their own. I set up and ran Robonaut today, and the alpha-magnetic spectrometer is running. But one from the University of Waterloo - there's a Canadian experiment running down here in the corner that I'm taking care of. One from the University of Waterloo has some complexity to it. I think Dr. Houston was talking to you about it. But we take these leg cuffs, and - I'm going to float the microphone. We take these leg cuffs and have to put them on our upper - our upper thighs here, and get it all just right and attached, and then pump them up. And then, when everything's just right, we have all the medical data attached to our body then release them. And it's almost the same as coming from weightlessness and suddenly putting gravity back, so that the blood that was trapped now suddenly can flush down into the legs.

And it takes a lot of set-up, of course, to get all of the biomedical sensing equipment attached to our body, and then get all the parameters - I mean, Dr. Houston and his team have been working on it for years to get to the moment where I can get all this equipment set up, running properly in the right position, and then have my body go through this sudden change, so that then we can study how the body regulates blood pressure, how it regulates the blood flow, and use that of course for astronaut health, but also for the health of everybody on Earth who has blood pressure regulation problems. So one like this with a lot of equipment, they have a lot of complexity, but also they have a lot of benefit.

Question: Hi, Chris. Hmm? Hi, Chris. Hi, Chris. My name is Alex Lee (ph), and my question is how does Internet work on the ISS?

Chris Hadfield: It works really slowly, if at all. We don't really have Internet, or just barely have Internet on the Space Station, but we have multiple links to the ground -- some direct, just like a VHF radio. We have HAM radio. But we also have high data rate communications through different bands of the spectrum -- not just VHF, very high frequency, or UHF, but we also have S band and KU band. Complex answer, but when we have KU band, it's a high enough data rate that we can bounce our signal off a geostationary satellite, down to Earth, through all the ground relay sites, down to Mission Control in Houston, and then they take that signal and they hook it up to a computer that's sitting there, like a mirror computer site down in Mission Control, so that when I tap on my keyboard up here, it goes through that long, long trail all the way down to that ghost computer on the ground, and that way I can access the Internet. And that's how I can send messages on Twitter and do very slow functions. It's slow - slower than dial-up. So I can't watch videos or anything, but it's good enough for just verbal and Twitter kind of data communication, and it's been a wonderful boon for me to be able to help communicate this experience to the ground.

Question: Hi, Chris. My name is Michael Goldring. My question is did the transition from test piloting fighter jets make space flight a less daunting task?

Chris Hadfield: Yeah, astronauts come from a lot of different backgrounds. I was a engineer. I - of course I was an engineer at the University of Waterloo. I was a fighter pilot, and then I went to test pilot school, and I worked as a test pilot for several years. And an aerospace vehicle, just like the aerospace program that's at the University of Waterloo, trying to understand, you know, if you make the engine twice as big or the wings twice as long or whatever, what happens, how's the vehicle work. How do you build a control system with all of the appropriate filtering so that a vehicle will have the right handling qualities? All of that has been directly applicable to flying the shuttle and to flying the Soyuz. And then the complexity of a big spaceship like this one, it's really just a super-expanded version of some of the airplanes I flew as a test pilot. So I think for anyone who wants to fly in space, flying is a big part of that. There's all the technical side of it, but I think it was a very good grounding, if you can use that word, for what I'm doing now.

Question: Hi, Chris. My name is Priyanka Patel (ph). My question is what feature on Earth's surface that's natural or manmade are you most surprised to be able to see?

Chris Hadfield: Priyanka, the - you know, the thing I was most surprised to see was - were noctilucent clouds. These are - they're not right on the surface, but they're pretty close. They're the highest clouds that are - that exist that you can see visually, can barely ever see them from the ground. But if you get just the right angle between the Sun and the Earth, and they happen to be there, you can see them. And I thought you were - I was going to have to be some sort of scientist or super photographer to be ever able to take a good picture of a noctilucent cloud. Some people think they're a good indication of climate change as we can track the changes of these noctilucent clouds. But about a month ago, one night, just coming up on Australia, they were as clear as a bell. And I grabbed a camera and used what training I had and got some - I was shocked, they were just so crystal clear, these ethereal clouds that normally are completely invisible, but that are a vital part of our Earth's upper atmosphere, and I managed to be able to see them with my own eyes and get clear pictures of them. And those pictures may well be one of the most enduring legacies of our time up here, is the science that comes along with that surprising thing I saw down close to the surface of the Earth.

Question: Hi, Chris. My name is Nancy Simteens (ph). My question is do you have any advice, besides advanced education, for those aspiring to become Canada's future astronauts?

Chris Hadfield: Hi, Nancy. Yes. In fact, you should ask Jeremy after because Jeremy asked me that same question about 14 years ago, or 13 years ago. Number one is you need a healthy body because we don't want to take a big risk on health up here. So not only hopefully you're born with a body that's healthy enough, but also you need to take care of it. So you don't have to go crazy, but exercise enough to stay in shape and don't eat bad things, and keep your body in shape. Number two is an advanced education - and not so much for the education. I mean, a technical education is important, but the proven ability to learn complex things. And of course you're doing that at the University of Waterloo, a tremendous school. And then the third thing is an ability to make good decisions when consequences matter and where you - the result of your decisions either is life or death or big financial consequences or something like that.

And when Canada and all the other countries are choosing astronauts, that's what they're looking for: very healthy, people who've proven they can learn complex things at a high level, but who can also make good decisions when they have to. And then that just gets it down to 500 people or so, and then they're looking for all the other things: what else have you done interesting in your life, other languages that you speak, what else do you bring to the table. Can you play guitar? Can you - are you going to be an interesting person to go to Mars with or not? So - but you guys are on the right track. The University of Waterloo, that's a premier school in Canada, and the things that you're doing and learning there are setting you on the right track not only to fly in space, but setting you up for life.

Question: Hi, Chris. My name is James Allen, and my question is, in your opinion, what is the greatest contribution that the International Space Station provides to the world, and is asteroid watch a part of that?

Chris Hadfield: We'll be watching for the asteroid a little later today. We weren't in a position to see that meteorite do all that damage in Russia. It's going to be very hard to see the asteroid. They did the math, and it's going to be less than a pixel for us to take a picture. So we may, with a time lapse, see it go by. But for the Space Station itself, of course with all the experiments going on, it's very hard to predict when an experiment will have a breakthrough. But I'm hoping that, over its 20- or 30-year life of the Station, from way back in '78 -- or I'm sorry, in '98 -- when it was first launched, I'm hoping that there is some science that happens on here that is truly breakthrough. We sure are setting ourselves up for it. Mounted to the top is the alpha-magnetic spectrometer, which is collecting matter and antimatter and high-energy particles from the universe, trying to understand the fundament of what the universe is made of; studying the human physiology that you can't study on Earth, when you take away gravity.

But one of the main legacies may be that, when one of you goes to Mars, you will be on a spaceship that has functioning pumps, is made of the right material, has a closed environmental system, recycling water and air, has all the systems that work, the hull is made of the right metal - all of those things, because of what we learned here on the Space Station. When the first people sailed out of sight of land, it wasn't their first trip. They had sailed, had learned how to build spacesh-- or sailing ships -- how to -- what oakum you needed, how the sails should be built, how do you keep people healthy on a long sailing voyage -- before they ever started leaving sight of land. And they owed their legacy to the early sailing ships. And for those of you that leave Earth to go somewhere else, you're going to owe your legacy to both the science and the engineering that is the International Space Station.

Question: Hello, Chris. Ian McKenzie. I'd like to thank you on behalf of the University of Waterloo, and particularly the students who participated in this event today. And we look forward to seeing you at the University of Waterloo in the future.


Chris Hadfield: Dr. McKenzie, thank you very much. Thanks, everybody, for the great questions. I'm sorry if I didn't get to everyone's questions, but Jeremy's there and he'll be able to answer. Waterloo is a great school. My wife worked in Waterloo, I studied at the university, my son was born there. It's a great part of Canada, and I very much look forward to coming and visiting and really trying to take the time to tell you about this experience when I get back to Earth. Landing in May, and back to Canada this summer. So thank you very much. Thank you, Jeremy, and everybody, for supporting, and we'll talk to you all later. Bye from the International Space Station.



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