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2014-06-04 at 17:04

Inspired by space

By Kathleen Charlebois, for
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THUNDER BAY -- Kids ask better questions than their grownup counterparts.

That’s one of the things retired Canadian astronaut and Royal Canadian Air Force pilot Chris Hadfield has learned after returning to Earth from his 2013 stint on the International Space Station.   

“(Kids are) curious because it’s in their future,” says Hadfield, “whereas adults are idly curious because it’s something someone else chose to do.”

Hadfield took the stage at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium Wednesday afternoon and shared his stories and experiences about life in space and on earth Wednesday. His audience for the afternoon presentation was mostly curious, school-aged children.

“(Kids) all have the potential to fly in space. All of them,” Hadfield said after the presentation.

“For them, it’s very much talking about the possibilities that exist, and the awareness of those possibilities and by giving them really visceral examples of what it feels and looks and sounds and smells and tastes like.

“A kid will ask ‘so, if you’re weightless and you exhale, then how come you don’t get a bigger and bigger cloud of carbon dioxide around your head until you suffocate?’ They’re visualizing themselves being there, and thinking their way through problems for the first time, which is a wonderful position to be in, where you can actually see them expanding their understanding of what’s going on as a result of presenting something new to them.”

Hadfield, who was inspired himself to become an astronaut after watching people fly into space as a child,  described his own experiences of blasting off into space. He talked about life in zero-gravity, including weightless washroom breaks.

Hadfield added that showing kids his personal experiences as an important responsibility of being a Canadian astronaut.

“They’re going to make decisions in their life based on what they’ve seen so far or what they dream about doing,” he said, “If you can help them see opportunities that they might never have thought of, or showed realities of things that are actually happening, then it just helps them make better decisions and hopefully become even better Canadians.”

Local elementary school student Mallory hopes her own future includes a space-related career, albeit a bit more grounded than Hadfield's has been. 

“I want to join up with NASA and help people go into space, not actually go into space myself,” she said.

Despite being a household name across the country and around the world, Hadfield says celebrity only really matters for what you’re being celebrated for.

He also says that he doesn’t miss being in space and instead sees it as a wonderful experience that’s happened so far.

“I try not to ever miss anything. I don’t say that lightly,” he said. “There’s not a lot of point in looking backwards because that’s not where you’re going.

“I’m much more interested in what’s going on today, because there is nothing more important than what you’re doing right now.”


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