Five Miles Up: Astronaut Chris Hadfield and his final frontier


(Courtesy of NASA)

While many people respond to FMU’s question about their final trip being to space, Colonel Chris Hadfield has been there not once, not twice, but three times. This year, following a five-month stint aboard the International Space Station in 2012, the Canadian astronaut announced his retirement in order to “take up new challenges.” One such challenge was publishing his memoir, “An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything.” Hadfield shared some of these insights with FMU, as well as a few stories from his earthbound travels.

Why did you decide to write “An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth”?
To show that space flight is different than you expect. It’s not boring, just clinically analytical and all engineering. It’s fun, whimsical, inspiring and hilarious. The book also talks about how I extract what’s useful and practical about space flight and apply it to life here on Earth.

What did you find surprising about space?

(Courtesy of Colonel Chris Hadfield)

When I was 9 years old, I was surprised and intrigued when watching people walk on the moon. I was challenged, motivated, inspired by the opportunity for people to fly in space. That challenge, wonder and sense of a thing being just barely possible if you work hard enough… that’s what exploration is all about. That feeling is pervasive throughout the entire experience of spaceflight. It doesn’t just suddenly occur when your engines shut off in orbit. It’s the core of why we go to space and the sensation of being there. I’m constantly surprised and delighted by the complexity, wonder and miraculous nature of space travel.

What’s something you never fail to pack in your suitcase?
A toothbrush and clean underwear.

Carry-on or check-in?
I’m a guitar player, so it’s always carry-on.

Window or aisle?

Do you bring food with you when flying?
On my shuttle flights, we brought peanut butter sandwiches because the bits don’t float away.

What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
Where you find yourself in a set of circumstances that inspire you in a new way.

Tell us about a vacation you’ve taken that’s come close thus far.
Driving around rural Portugal for a week with my wife. I experienced a language I didn’t speak, a culture I’d never experienced and a climate and ecology that were different from those I grew up with. I really learned and thought a lot during that drive.

What stood out most?
There were more types of olives than I ever expected to encounter.

What’s the worst annoyance you’ve experienced while traveling?
The way some airlines treat you. Not only do they not care, but they almost act malicious.

Where’s your favorite destination for practicing your profession?

What's the most decadent souvenir you’ve ever brought back from a trip?
A 1939 Gretsch hollow body guitar.

Ever try a food you wished you hadn't?
Bad pork. Salmonella is not your friend.

Favorite hotel/boat you've ever stayed on?
The Botel in the Maas River of Maastricht. It was authentic, unique and adventuresome.

Favorite restaurant you’ve discovered while traveling.
The French Laundry in Napa Valley.

Biggest regret you've ever had while on vacation.
I try never to regret anything.

The one thing you're willing to splurge on when traveling above all else.
New experiences.

Three songs on your travel playlist?
When I’m traveling, I always buy local music as early as possible in trip and stick it in CD of car I’m driving. I don’t import music with me. Even in space, most of the music I took with me was in my head. I actually wrote a whole CD’s worth of music in orbit and played songs I knew.

Where would you take someone visiting your hometown of Sarnia, Ontario for the first?
Purdy’s Fish Shop in the shadow of the Blue Water Bridge.

You only get one more trip in your lifetime. Where will it be?
The moon.

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