Chris Hadfield's Most Memorable Moments in Orbit
Within weeks of riding a Russian Soyuz spacecraft up to the International Space Station, astronaut Chris Hadfield's fame reached galactic heights.
He took questions from Starfleet Command and, in between his orbital duties as commander of the orbiting lab's Expedition 35, created viral videos showing those of us on Earth what it's like to live in space. Here are the top seven highlights of his five-month mission, which came to an end on May 13, 2013.
FIRST MOMENT: Making Alien Contact
Making Alien Contact
In 2013's most elaborate off-planet joke, Chris Hadfield sent a series of tweets describing his view of a UFO that approached the station before an alien came on board.
After posting a selfie of himself with the robotic Canadarm2 – casually mentioning some orbital debris in the picture – Hadfield sent a series of pictures showing the object getting larger and larger. The last tweet, which pictured Hadfield with the visitor, said, "I don't know what it is or what it wants, but it keeps repeating 'Sloof Lirpa' over and over." (Read "Sloof Lirpa" backward to get the joke.)
NEXT: Bringing Spaceflight Fun to Earth
Bringing Spaceflight Fun to Earth
Hadfield became extremely popular for his efforts to show everyday life aboard the station, and he wasn't afraid to inject a little humor into the process, too.
Whether it was showing how topuke in orbit, or the horrifying prospect of blobs of tears forming when you're crying, or demonstrating the cocoons astronauts sleep in, Hadfield's folksy charm meant that these simple videos.
NEXT: Honoring Holidays in Orbit
Honoring Holidays in Orbit
Prior to his mission, Hadfield spoke of the importance of celebrating holidays while on board the station, as it encourages the crew to share cultural traditions.
During his five months in orbit, there were holidays aplenty, starting with Christmas shortly after the crew arrived in December, as well as Easter in March. There are no guarantees that any holiday will be celebrated on orbit because of the crew's intense workload, but NASA tries to accommodate the various customs of the diverse nationalities aboard the station at any time.
NEXT: Tweeting Starfleet
Hadfield's trademark humor came through in early January when famed "Star Trek" actor William Shatner tweeted him. Shatner, best known as Captain James T. Kirk, asked the astronaut if Hadfield was tweeting from space.
"Yes, Standard Orbit, Captain," Hadfield wrote back, referring to a phrase said over and over again on the 1960s show. "And we're detecting signs of life on the surface." Reaction to the momentary interaction took over Twitter's space channels for a while. Within hours, other "Star Trek" actors joined in the fun, including Leonard Nimoy (Spock on the original series), George Takei (Sulu) and Wil Wheaton (Wesley on "The Next Generation.")
NEXT: Strumming in Space
Strumming in Space
Hadfield, as commander of the station's Expedition 35, took music very seriously. Used properly, it could be a tool to help the astronauts get through tough times on orbit, he said in a pre-launch press conference. "Music is just an expression and the extension of life itself," he said.
While in orbit, Hadfield kept busy with personal concerts for the astronauts as well as other performances that reached tens of thousands on Earth. Notably, he participated in the first original space-Earth duet — "I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing)” — and played the song "Moondance" with NASA astronaut Cady Coleman and famed Celtic band The Chieftains, who were performing in Houston.
NEXT: Taking Command of the International Space Station
Taking Command of the International Space Station
In the culmination of Hadfield's career, the astronaut assumed command of the International Space Station's Expedition 35 crew in March 2013. Hadfield had wanted to be an astronaut since watching the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, and flew twice in space in 1995 and 2001 before receiving the prized assignment.
Although Hadfield now has super-celebrity status, those following him in past missions knew his talents: they prized his innate ability to connect with everybody. "The man is a quintessential speaker, and he can talk to 10-year-olds or he can talk to a group of adults, and they come out spellbound. It's amazing," said Stephen Quick, director-general of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.
NEXT: David Bowie's 'Space Oddity'
David Bowie's 'Space Oddity'
Hadfield wrapped up his trip just before landing with a haunting version of David Bowie's cosmic song "Space Oddity," changing the lyrics to suit his Soyuz trip back home. [Listen to Hadfield's 'Space Oddity' (Video)]
NEXT: Helping Seniors on Earth
Helping Seniors on Earth
Though Hadfield returns to Earth in May 2013, his orbital research could help seniors for many years. The astronaut's scientific work included monitoring blood pressure and flow in orbit, echoing experiments that are being done for older people on Earth.
"We think — we're still in the thinking stage — what's happening is you damage the brain blood vessels to the extent that you have a reduction in total brain blood flow," said Richard Hughson, a professor at the University of Waterloo, describing what happens when blood goes through vessels that stiffen with age. The university is completing a long-term care facility to study seniors medically in their homes, a worldwide first.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace