Astronaut Chris Hadfield“To me what’s happening now and what’s happening next is always the most interesting part of life.”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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Listening to Commander Chris Hadfield talk, it’s easy to imagine that he has a script in front of him – he seems to have a well-thought-out answer for every question and never seems to need to pause to think about his response to any given question. Maybe it’s due to his upbringing on a farm in rural Canada, or maybe it’s due to the training astronauts have to do to avoid making mistakes in space. Whatever the reason, he’s very easy to listen to. And he has many nuggets of wisdom to share. In fact, he could almost certainly make quite a living as a lifestyle guru. But that’s probably not part of his plan for the coming decade. Despite his considerable achievements, Hadfield’s more concerned with the present and the future than the past.

“To me what’s happening now and what’s happening next is always the most interesting part of life.”

Becoming an astronaut for young Chris Hadfield came down to one little verb: to fly. As a 9 year old boy watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon, Chris recognised that astronauts fly and that surely he could learn to do that too. If you’re thinking about changing careers, Chris outlined the steps you might want to take on this morning’s Ryan Tubridy Show:

“Fly a kite first and then maybe a little model airplane. And then, as you turn 14 or 15, you can actually start to fly airplanes.”

Chris has orbited Earth more than two thousand, six hundred times, so embracing that verb really worked out for him. Ryan asked him what the most fun aspect of being an astronaut is. Chris was unequivocal in his answer:

 “Weightlessness. Being able to fly, it’s like having a superpower. Weightlessness is just a continuous, bottomless joy. It’s great.”

Living in space, flying in space, going on spacewalks – these are things that seem to make most of the few people who’ve experienced them resolutely philosophical. And when a listener texts the show to say that they were always afraid as a child of the darkness and enormity of space, Chris doesn’t hesitate with his response (in fairness, he never hesitates) :

“The dark is for dreaming. The dark is where you see the stars. The dark is often where your mind can give you a whole new perspective of thought. So the child-like fear of the unknown and the fear of the dark, that’s natural and normal. But finding a way to recognise the beauty and the magic of the velvety black of the darkness – that’s where you can see things that are invisible otherwise. I think it’s a good process to go through as we grow up.”

The phrase “velvety black” is Ryan’s cue to introduce the inevitable Guinness-related question from a listener, but, in news likely to disappoint stout-drinking would-be astronauts everywhere, it turns out we won’t be seeing the black stuff on tap aboard the International Space Station any time soon.

As Ryan says, he – and we – could listen to Chris for hours. So he asks him to come back on the show again soon. Can’t wait.

Chris Hadfield is back on our screens as part of Electric Ireland’s “We’re Brighter Together” campaign. And you can hear the full conversation with Ryan here.

Niall Ó Sioradáin

© The Listener 2020

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