Jeremy Hansen: We just have 10 minutes this morning. It’s a fairly informal discussion. We’ll just kind of remind ourselves what’s going to happen, who we’re going to be talking to and where they are and what Chris has been up and what he’s doing.
So of course this is where Chris is going to be calling us from right here, the International Space Station. It’s the size of a football field and the astronauts live and work in these tin cans that are lined up right along the middle in kind of a T shape with the T being at the back.
And that volume that they live in, the six of them, is about – is equivalent to a 747. So they have quite a bit of room for the six of them to do their daily experiments and their work.
This is the man, the guy we get to chat with today. And these are great photos that show us where he’s taking his awesome photos that we’ve been seeing in the news and on Twitter. This is the cupola. And the cupola’s on the bottom of the Space Station and so this pane of glass that’s right here is parallel to the surface of the Earth. And then these other panes of glass they go around in a 360-degree view, giving you a beautiful panoramic view of our planet. And of course if you get close to the glass and look up, you can see the blackness of space. You can see the stars. And it just must be absolutely tremendous. Imagine what it’s like to see it with your own eyes.
I’m a rookie astronaut. I’ve been training for about three and a half years now and I can’t wait for my opportunity to go up there and just see this with my own eyes. I mean the pictures are phenomenal. I can barely imagine what it’s going to be like to see them for myself.
Now Chris is a special guy. This is somebody I’ve been following for a long time. I had the opportunity to meet Chris when I was in university on a few occasions, and he’s the type of person who always takes time for you. If you have the opportunity to run into Chris, he’ll be more than happy to spend a few minutes with you. I had some very specific and pointed questions about what it was like to be an astronaut and how I might find myself one day following in his footsteps, and Chris always put an effort into answering those questions for me. I was able to email him when I had questions about my degree program. I was trying to decide which one I was going to take. That’s the Chris Hadfield I knew – I know, you know, a guy who’s accomplished so much but never forgets who he’s doing it on behalf of.
And so this is a great picture of Chris. He’s achieved something great and he’s floating in space with a Canadian flag in the background and I just think that’s awesome.
So in December – I just want to show you how he got there. In December, he was over in Kazakhstan and this is where we launch the Russian Soyuz rocket out of. And this photo is taken of Chris. He’s in his actual vehicle. That’s his – the Soyuz vehicle that he flew up on. This is Chris on the backside of the picture, I guess at the top of the picture, if you will. And the photographer who took this photo was standing outside the capsule looking through the window on the right side of the capsule and there’s a window exactly opposite it right here, on the left side. You can even see a head in the photo there looking into the capsule just like the photographer is. And there’s three people in the capsule. So here’s Chris and then here’s his – the Commander of the Russian Soyuz rocket Roman Romanenko. And then Tom Marshburn is just right here at the bottom of the photo. It’s just very dark. It’s difficult to see.
But Chris has some important responsibilities in the Soyuz vehicle. He’s the left seater which means he’s essentially the copilot and you can see he’s operating some of the computer that’s in front of him. This is where you – how you control the Soyuz rocket on the way to space.
And this happened a few days before launch, what they call the fit check where they actually have the astronauts get into the suit they’re going to wear to go up to orbit. They crawl into the real vehicle through the tiny hatch at the top, lower themselves down, strap themselves in, make sure everything works, they run the vehicle through some tests and then once that’s all passed they get out and then they take that capsule and they put it on top of this rocket. And that capsule we just saw Chris sitting in is this portion of the rocket right here.
And then a few days later we light that and we sent it into space. And I see Ozzy smiling in the front because she saw it with her own eyes. She was over there too. And it’s just an incredible experience to see a rocket blast off. I mean it’s so powerful and so fast and you’re just like, man, that was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen but I wish it could come back around and do it again. It just it happened so fast and it’s gone. And when you get to space, by the time you get there, all you’re left with is this gets blown away, the shroud, the white thing covering it. The rest of the rocket, the fuel’s been expended and you’re just left with the tiny top part of the capsule.
And then a few days later you catch up to the Space Station and you join your crew. So in Chris’ case there were already three people there. There was another American and two Russians and this is Chris’ crew. So we have Oleg here, Evgeny and Kevin Ford who’s the commander right now. And he’s the gentleman that Chris will take over from on March 14th when he takes command of the Space Station when Kevin Ford and his crew come back to Earth. So he joined this crew of six.
And someone sent me this photo and I looked at it and I kind of chuckled because aren’t these guys too cool for school in this photo? (Laughter.) And they are. I mean it’s a very serious job and all those things. It’s dangerous and it’s challenging and anything could go wrong at any given second and we all know, all of us that work with Chris and the other people in the crew, we all know that they can handle all of those things and if anyone could handle it, it’s these guys and there’s a part of us that knows that they’re like this picture but these are the real guys I know. It’s just a great bunch of human beings who are in space representing humanity right now. And I just think it’s awesome how much effort they put into bringing space back for all of us to share in.
I wanted to show you a few more photos before we get to talk with Captain Kirk coming up here. So we’ve got to keep an eye on the time. We don’t want to be late for that.
Here’s Chris working on basically payloads, so science experiments. This is the MELFI. It’s a minus-80-degree freezer so it’s where we basically freeze our science experiments, stuff that needs to show up in space frozen and needs to come back to Earth frozen. And we can do it in this freezer. And, luckily enough for the astronauts, we can also get ice cream back and forth to space in that freezer.
Chris spends a lot of his day, two hours plus of his day, every day exercising so either lifting weights in space essentially, the equivalent of that. Of course there’s no weight but mass in space and running on a treadmill or using a bicycle. And this is important. This is important research. We’re trying to figure out how to send humans back beyond lower Earth orbit on really long duration missions and have them go to Mars for let’s say on a two-year mission and come back in good enough shape to – well, to get to Mars in good enough shape to work on the surface and have bones that are strong and muscles that are strong. So we’re learning a lot about that.
And here’s a nice view of just inside the Space Station. This is the volume that Chris is working in. Here he’s got – this is a cargo container. Basically it’s where – how we store stuff in space because if you don’t store it inside something then it just floats all over and makes a huge mess so we have all these containers — we call them CTBs. And here’s Chris working on moving one around of some sort.
Now when Chris’ mission is done, that little – that tiny bit of the capsule will come back to Earth like this underneath a parachute.
And here’s a reminder of where we’re going to seeing Chris from today, orbiting our Earth, looking back at us right now, seeing these amazing things. And I love these photos that we get back from the astronauts that show us the extent of the Earth’s atmosphere, how thin the Earth’s atmosphere, that part that protects us from the harshness of space, that gives us water so we can grow crops, gives us air to breathe. And this is just such a unique perspective that’s coming back to us from space.
So are we still on time? Are we ready for the Captain? So I’ll just point out we have the Canadian connection going on today because right here is David St. Jacques, my counterpart.
Mission Control: Station, this is Houston. Are you ready for the event?
Chris Hadfield: I’m ready for the event.
Mission Control: Mr. Shatner, this is Mission Control Houston. Please call Station for a voice check.
William Shatner: I’m calling. This is Shatner. Do you hear me?
Chris Hadfield: Mr. Shatner, this is the Space Research Vessel ISS in Earth orbit and, yes, I hear you loud and clear. How do you hear me? This is Chris Hadfield.
William Shatner: Chris, I hear you loud and clear. It’s such a pleasure to talk to you. I’m so moved to be able to speak to you for this brief moment. So I want to ask you some questions that have deep – have some deep meaning to me. So let me start off right away.
You’re in the International Space Station but you had to get there in a Russian vehicle. Are we, as America, falling behind or is this just a pause on our space program?
Chris Hadfield: The space business is an extremely difficult one and I think the best way to answer that question is to look at history. You know, we’ve never had regular access to space. We’ve had a space flight and then a landing and then we review everything and make sure it’s safe and then we launch another one. And the Shuttle was tremendously vehicle – a successful vehicle, flying 135 times, but it’s not like in between flights we could just count on the next one. Every one was really much the max level of effort that we could do. And so it went from Mercury to Gemini to Apollo to Shuttle with many, many lulls in between. And the time it takes to build a new vehicle is quite long. So you can say we kind of lost our way in between every single launch, but in truth that’s not how it works. What it takes is an enormous effort of will and technical knowhow to build a spaceship and then to be brave enough to launch one because you risk lives every time you do. And we’re just right now in between vehicles, much as we were after Mercury, after Gemini, afer Apollo. We’re just in the after Shuttle era right now.
But, fortunately, because of international cooperation, we’re not grounded. And this place is built by the world and very much put together with the United States as the – as the foreman. And, fortunately, we didn’t have to abandon it as we did Skylab because we didn’t have a vehicle or cooperation. Because of cooperation with other countries, people are here living and working, and the United States will build another vehicle and that will come up here also. So it’s by no means a lost way. It’s just a natural path.
William Shatner: Well, I read that you have already volunteered to go on a Mars mission. Does that have any reality to it? And because of the nature of this brief time, let me add to that question, you volunteered to go, but isn’t that a fearful operation? Isn’t that fraught with such enormous difficulty and danger?
Chris Hadfield: You’ve taken a lot of risks in your life as well. And it was a risk that I decided to take many, many years ago. Really, to accomplish anything worthwhile in life is going to take risk. And even if you decide to stay at home and sit at your kitchen table, eventually the ceiling will fall or there’ll be a hurricane or a tornado. You can’t live a worthwhile life without taking risks. And some things are really worth directing your life towards and putting your life on the line for.
Let me just say between the real life exploits of the first astronauts and the visually fantasized and enlivened ones like you portrayed on Star Trek and so many other people have in literature, they inspire people like me to do things like this. And without that inspiration and then without the technological capability that comes along with it, none of it would be possible. And I’m in a position to say that the risks are infinitely worthwhile when you look at the view that’s just out these windows behind me and the things that lie just beyond.
And, yes, going to Mars is inevitable, just as sailing across the Atlantic or flying across the Atlantic or orbiting around the world or going to the Moon. It’s just a matter of when we figure out how, we put ourselves together enough, we take those visualized dreams and fantasies and turn them into reality which is what we’re doing here right now.
William Shatner: You are – you have many degrees in mechanical engineering and you must see the universe in terms of how extraordinary a mechanical engineering feat that is and how mystifying it is because we know nothing. Do you find yourself in the Space Station observing as a scientist a part of it, removed from it, or are you able to be – to see the unifying parts of it, so that you become at one with the universe?
Chris Hadfield: Luckily, I think, Bill, the answer is both. Most people, the highest they ever get is maybe to climb a tall hill or climb a mountain and look around or even get in an airplane and start to see what lies beyond the normal two dimensions the surface of the world of normal life. To have the opportunity to get as far away as we are here and not only that but to go around the world every 90 minutes, you never saw it on stage while you were filming, but the view that they used to put in for us watching Star Trek of how the world looks out of Zulu and Chekov’s windows there, that’s how the world looks.
There’s an enormous wonderful rolling Earth below us but all you have to do is flip yourself upside down and suddenly the rest of the universe is right there at your feet below you, and that’s where the engineer in me of course is very much thinking about the ship and how we got here and the problems and the difficulties. But the human within me recognizes what we are in between. We’ve gone from climbing a hill, getting in an airplane to now actually being right on the cusp of permanently leaving our planet to everything else that exists. And I feel hugely connected to that. It’s what was inspired in me as a kid and I’ve kind of directed my whole life. I became an engineer and a fighter pilot and a test pilot to try and gain the skills to maybe someday do this. And now I’m doing my absolute best to help people see that, to help us understand where we are kind of philosophically and historically in our increased human understanding of where we do lie in the universe.
Those are great big words for, you know, a lab technician on a Space Station —
William Shatner: I know but —
Chris Hadfield: — but I definitely get a sense of that all the time.
William Shatner: It’s inspiring to hear. Let me go back to a moment, you’ve tested many airplanes. You’ve been a test pilot which is like the utmost example of courage in that you’re flying something unknown and you don’t know what characteristics it’s going to have. How do you deal with the fear which is also applicable to going up into space and returning, which is perhaps even more fearful?
Chris Hadfield: I read somewhere that you always knew your lines whenever you had a job in the acting profession. I have tried to always know my lines, whether it was as a fighter pilot or as an astronaut or as a test pilot. And the way I deal with fear is I try to define what it is that’s scaring me. And what I’m scared most of is not knowing what to do next, you know, to be struck dumb on stage or to be responsible for a vehicle and not know the right actions to take with my hands or with the spaceship.
And so I spent almost my entire adult life making sure that I knew my lines, that when the Soyuz spaceship, which I helped fly up here, that if – I spent years of course learning to speak Russian and then learning to fly that spaceship. And even though it flew itself basically flawlessly up here, no matter what happened, Roman Romanenko and I were ready to jump in and fly it and take over and do it all manually and fly it home. And that’s a terrifying thing initially, but after years of training where you practise everything right down to the nth detail so you know you have the confidence that comes with that, then the fear diminishes. It feels like you’re on a crest of a wave of ability and that really diminishes fear.
William Shatner: You’ve poised that perfectly as an actor who is fearful of the audience but as long as you practise enough, you learn what to expect. The fear comes from something unexpected happening, like forgetting your words or an audience reaction that’s unexpected. In my case, your face flushes and you get a sheen of flop sweat. In your case, you burn up — it’s a little different. (Laughter.)
Chris Hadfield: Yeah, well, in both cases you go down in flames. (Laughter.) One is figurative, and one is not. My wife – my wife – my wife is actually – when people ask her if she’s scared of what I do for a living, as you say, prior to this I was a test pilot. That was a much more risky profession. I basically lost one good friend a year for the whole time that I was a professional high performance pilot. And so, yes, this job has risks at a level that is fairly high, but there are lots of professions on Earth that have a lot of risk. Good people — firemen and soldiers and some of the professions on Earth — and I respect them all for them, understanding their job, really applying themselves and professionally getting their particular piece of work done in the world.
William Shatner: But there’s another risk involved here as well. You’re up there for six months. That’s a long time to be away, is it not?
Chris Hadfield: It is. We have pretty good communications. Just think of what you and I are doing right now. You know you think about the stuff that was portrayed on television 40 years ago of people with a small handheld device standing on the surface of a planet talking to someone effortlessly who is orbiting that planet. That’s what you and I are doing right now. And so I can do the same with my friends and family. I can talk to them pretty much every day. And so it’s not that much different than just being on a long business trip. And training as an International Space Station astronaut takes you all around the world for years, so in truth it’s a four or five-year period of which five or six months you’re in orbit but with the level of technology we have right now, it removes a lot of the sense of remoteness to it. So it’s we’re busy, happy, hardworking and we still have communication with the world.
William Shatner: That’s wonderful to hear. That’s wonderful to hear, Chris. I’m getting a little nudging that we’re running over time. So many questions about the future of space and the Mars mission and all. I would look forward to another time to speak to you in great depth and find out the larger implications of the questions that I was – I’ve sort of briefly been able to ask you.
Chris Hadfield: You know those scenes when you were in Boston Legal where at the end of the show and you sit out sort of on the veranda or the balcony and maybe over a cigar and a whisky and talk of life, you ought to come to my cottage and sit on the porch. I would love the chance to talk to you about this and compare notes. It’s a fabulous experience.
William Shatner: Northern Ontario is one of my favourite places. I’ll bet you have a cottage up there.
Chris Hadfield: Yeah, we have an Ontario cottage and, yeah, you ought to come visit. It’s a great place to think about the world and watch satellites go over and really reflect on where we are.
William Shatner: I know the —
Chris Hadfield: I know you’re short on time.
William Shatner: I know the area. It’s a pleasure, Chris. I look forward to meeting you in person and sitting down with a whisky and a cigar. (Laughter.)
Chris Hadfield: All right. Very nice talking with you. Thanks very much. And all the best.
William Shatner: Thank you. Same to you. Bye bye.
Mission Control: Station, this is Houston ACR. That concludes your conversation with Mr. Shatner. Please stand by for a voice check from CSA headquarters.
Jeremy Hansen: Greetings, Chris. It’s Jeremy here with you at our home, the Canadian Space Agency. How do you hear me? I’ll take that as a yes.
Chris Hadfield: I have you loud and clear. Great to hear your voice and hello to everybody – hello to everybody in Saint-Hubert. Can you hear me okay?
Jeremy Hansen: We’ve got you loud and clear too, Chris. (Applause.) We’ve got a number of questions here for you and we’re going to get started with that, Chris. But, before we do that, I just wanted to pass along some words on behalf of the Agency. We’re so incredibly proud of what you’ve been doing on behalf of Canada up there and we’re following you along every step of the way so keep up the great work. And we really enjoyed listening to you this morning. So over to a couple questions.
Question: Good day. Gilles Couture, teacher in grade 5. Our students and I would like to know how do you control the air quality on the ISS?
Chris Hadfield: The quality of the atmosphere, yes, and for the students also, yes, it is a problem, absolutely. And we miss here – in the space station we miss the plants, the trees and there are no natural system for that. So it's the same than in a submarine, a submarine vessel. We have systems to – to take chemical samples of the atmosphere like CO2 or CO as well, gases that are bad for our health. There are systems to filter and refresh that. We also take back oxygen from water and urine to maintain our vital needs. And each visiting spaceship brings extra oxygen and nitrogen. And with that, we have an atmosphere comparable to Earth, that is good for our vital requirements, with which the crew never had any problem since the last 11-12 years, for the years to come, and also for Jeremy during his future space mission. So it works very well.
Question: Thank you.
Question: Hi, Chris. This is Ryan Caverley (ph). My question is, considering the recent success of the Space X Dragon spacecraft, do you think that the private sector will play a greater role in the development of Canadian space technology?
Chris Hadfield: Oh, the private sector has always played the biggest role in Canadian space technology. ComDev and SPAR and MDR, MDA and Neptec and all those companies, they’ve always been private sector companies. The real question is who’s the customer? And to be able to of course sell at the Canadian Space Agency and through the government, which is the big purchaser, and the United States too. Where we’re headed, we’re sort of like in the railroad days, building the Trans-Canada Railway or building the airports, building the infrastructure so that then businesses can open. We’re still in that stage. The biggest customer is still the government. But where Space X is headed, where we’re all headed, that’s where we ought to be going and eventually of course it will pay off for the Canadian private sector even more so but it’s a long process. It’s not easy to get here.
Question: Okay. Thank you, Chris.
Question: Hi, Chris. I’m Rob from Toronto. You’ve been doing a great job connecting with a lot of people worldwide through social media and other means like this event today. What’s the number one message that you really want people to take away from your mission in space?
Chris Hadfield: You know, people always ask what’s it like in space and what’s your favourite thing. The favourite thing is looking out the window. And that’s not just because it’s pretty, it’s because it’s fundamental to your soul to see the world this way, to be able to just – you know, when I was waiting for this to start, you can’t help but go to the window and look and think about where we are. And my fundamental goal is to get people, as best as I can, to be able to see the world that way, to see it as one small place, one bubble of air that keeps us all alive that we’re responsible for and just how close we are to each other. And it’s a perspective that is healthy for us as a species and it’s one that we are very privileged to see and I’m doing my very best to let everybody see that as clearly as I can.
Question: You’re doing a great job of it. Thank you.
Question: Hey, Chris. It’s Katrina from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. We all say hi. Astroid YYZ here. Anyway, as an amateur astronomer, I’m interested in knowing what astronomical objects can be seen from the ISS given you have so many lights around you, lights and machines and is there anywhere dark you can go on the station where you can look out and really get dark adapted and see what’s out there?
Chris Hadfield: Yeah, it’s sort of like a little kid leaving home. Most of our glances are back towards Mother Earth. But we do have windows that face the rest of the universe. And I spent some time looking at some actually yesterday, looking out one yesterday and remarking on actually just your question that the sky is almost white with the light of the universe, with the uncountable number of stars. But it has a lot of variation to it, even just with the naked eye when we’re in the shade of the Earth so we can really see it. You can see the whole dark sections where there’s dark matter or dust or whatever it is that’s between us and the rest of the universe. You can see the gradations of it, like looking into the deepest ocean and you can see very bright spots. You can’t see the constellations because the sky is just so alive with stars. It turns everyone into an amateur astronomer to be able to see the sky this way. I hope you get a chance somebody to come up and just let it fill your head through your eyeballs. It’s a wonderful sight.
Question: Me too. Thank you.
Question: Hi, Chris. My name is Jennifer Nichols. I’m an elementary school teacher. And the question I have for you today is being in a position that so much attention is focussed on you and what you have achieved in your career so far, what message you would like to give to the people down here or the students down here that can maybe see their dreams but don’t have the self-confidence to follow them?
Chris Hadfield: You know, I read somewhere once an interview with Sir Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney of the Beatles. And he said that he feels insecure — sometimes. He feels a lack of confidence — sometimes. And he said to himself, gosh, if I feel that way, everybody must feel that way. And I really took something away from that. I thought if one of the Beatles occasionally doesn’t feel confident, doesn’t have self-confidence, then that’s universal. Everybody feels that way. And it’s really only with each individual step of accomplishment that you start to build a sense of confidence in your own abilities.
When I decided to be an astronaut, I had virtually no skills. I was nine years old. But I thought, hey, I’m only nine, I’m not supposed to have very many skills yet, but I’m going to start working on it. I want to someday live on a space station. I want to command a spaceship. What do I do? How do I get there? And so I just every day started thinking about, well, how do I get there? What do I have to do?
Well, I need to do well in middle school. I need to do well in high school. I need to understand what’s going on. I need to learn to scuba dive. I need to not let my body get fat. I need to decide what I’m going to watch and read and just start turning myself into who I want to be. And with each one of those steps — learning to fly through the air cadets — each one of those little levels of accomplishment — I used to race downhill on various teams — with every small success comes a little bit of self-confidence in the things that you can accomplish so that then when you’re faced with a problem that’s new to you, you can look at it and go, gosh, I don’t know how to do that but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be able to figure it out.
And I treat everything the same way, whether it’s learning to operate a camera like this one, which I’m not really all that good at but I’ve learned well enough to be able to take some very good-looking pictures of the world. Or to fly a spaceship or to – I mean tomorrow I’m recording a song with – or playing a song with Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies. That’s a pretty daunting thing. And those guys would scare anybody. But you practise, and you learn, you prepare and you think about it and you visualize and it’s amazing, if you just take one little step of self-improvement at a time where it can lead you and how much confidence it can give you.
Question: Thank you.
Question: Hi, Chris. My name is Laura Austin from Sarnia, Ontario. And I was wondering if fractures or wounds heal faster in zero gravity.
Chris Hadfield: Boy, I hope we never find out. (Laughter.) You know, living up here is quite different. It’s a very sterile environment. I read somewhere that you’re never more – on the surface of the Earth, you’re never more than 10 feet away from a spider, just if you count the number of spiders around. But I think on Space Station we – I don’t think I’m – I think the nearest spider is 400 kilometres away.
We live in a very sterile environment up here. And for whatever reason, it changes our body’s physiology, not just bone density and muscle strength but also our immune system. Our immune system tends to depress a little. And we don’t load our bones up as heavily because, as you can see, everything just floats. I don’t even have to hold my head up. My head is floating on top of my neck. So we haven’t broken a major bone up here.
But my guess is they would heal more slowly just because they’re not subject to all of the regular stressors that help our bodies be tough and strong and that we’ve evolved to over the last, you know, however many million years. This is almost like trying to recover from something while you’re floating in gelatin or maybe on a waterbed, and even though some things may look like they’re happening quicker, whether they’ll get that toughness and that tenacity and that interwoven strength that we need in order to stay healthy on Earth, I’m not sure.
But we work really hard not to have any major wounds or to break our bones. I don’t want to up here.
Question: Thank you.
Jeremy Hansen: Okay, Chris. That’s going to be our last question. I think your break is over. It’s time for you to get back to work. I know you’ve got a lot to do today. One big thank you to you from all of us here. We really appreciate it. And really we only have one other word to describe what you’re doing and that’s amazing. All the best to you. We’ll talk to you again.
Chris Hadfield: Thanks, Jeremy. Let me just jump in before people applaud here. Let me just say that I’m sorry I didn’t get to all the questions if there were more. But Jeremy is one of our crew support astronauts. I’ve known Jeremy, gosh, for over a decade. He’s immensely capable and qualified and I’m sure he’d be able to answer your questions. And thank you very much, Jeremy, for coming all the way up to host today and for taking care of the visitors to the Space Agency. It’s an amazing place, the Canadian Space Agency. It makes this possible, and so we take a lot of pride in it. And have a good look around today, everybody.
Thanks a lot, Jeremy. Hi to everybody at the Space Agency, and I need to get back to work. Bye bye. (Applause.)