By MWO Normand Marion, 16 Wing
"It's a spectacular, amazing event to step outside the space shuttle," said Canadian astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield during a presentation at 16 Wing on 14 June. "You become this one-person spaceship... completely self-sustained, with your own power, your purification system, your communication system ... and sort of a fishing line to reel yourself back in."
Colonel Hadfield, who is presently NASA's Director of Operations at Star City in Russia, stopped in Borden to talk to the staff and students of 16 Wing about the international space programme. "Canada was not the first country in space, but we have been heavily involved in the space exploration programme since the very beginning. In fact, we were the third nation to have a satellite in space, after the Soviet Union and the United States."
He explained that today, there are 17 countries involved in the new space station programme, each one building a part of it. "Of course," he said, "because Canada had already built the arm on the shuttle, we were asked to contribute the robotic arm for the space station."
To his wide-eyed audience he explained that the station was not very far from Earth, but that it will help us to learn how to leave Earth in the future. "We are learning to do that as a planet, with all 17 nations involved... When we go to Mars, it won't be just one nation that will race to plant its flag. It will be as a planet."
Understandably, there were many questions raised by members of the Wing, one of which was the aspect of working in weightlessness. "Your body reacts in many ways," he explained. "In a way, it's like standing on your head for a long time. The blood flows to your head more than on Earth."
He also described other effects of weightlessness including the loss of bone mass as well as a special feature that brought a few laughs: "In micro gravity, everything that is not tied down floats around and migrates towards the venting ducts. So if one of us would fall asleep while working and wasn't strapped down, he would wake up at the ventilation intake."
Throughout his presentation, the 42-year-old former fighter pilot did not hide his enthusiasm toward his experience in space. "It's just incredible to be able to see the whole world around you," he said, "With all the colours of the space station, it's just a spectacular view; it takes your breath away."
Indeed, Colonel Hadfield's presentation seems to have touched everyone in the audience, regardless of their technological background. Corporal Melissa Webb, a clerk at the 16 Wing Orderly Room, found the presentation "truly awesome". "The presentation was very understandable, very enjoyable and very real," she said. "He presented very complicated technological advances in an every day perspective."
Colonel Jerry Gillis, the 16 Wing Commander, also found the briefing both informative and inspirational. "Colonel Chris Hadfield is in every sense of the word a role-model," he concluded. "The Canadian Forces and our whole country should be proud of him."
News & Events - News Room
Colonel Chris Hadfield Visits 16 Wing
June 26, 2002
Canadian astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield presents an autographed picture to 16 Wing Commander Colonel Jerry Gillis (Photo: MCpl Mark Durdin)2002/hadfield1.jpg
By MWO Normand Marion, 16 Wing