Thursday, February 21, 2013

Our Fragile Oasis Through the Eyes of Astronaut Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield in the Cupola
Since launching to the International Space Station last December, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, a veteran of two previous space shuttle missions, has sent social media followers all over the world into a frenzy, after posting over 200 photos of Earth from space, as well as some snaps and videos of what he and his fellow crew mates are getting up to on the ISS.

Hadfield, who posts his latest news, photos and videos on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, has been giving us earthlings the orbital perspective, by posting photos of  things like cirrus clouds over oceans, sand storms over deserts, and cities at night.

Whether he finds himself snapping away from the Cupola(a dome-shaped window on the Earth-facing side of the space station), or filming a video on how to make a peanut butter sandwich in space, Chris Hadfield always finds a way to keep those of us subject to gravity entertained! The Canadian astronaut says he wants to allow people to see the kind of work he and his fellow crew members are getting up to aboard the station, and allow them to see how all the science they are doing is interesting, fun and cool! His ultimate aim is to inspire the next generation of young people into careers involving space exploration in any way possible, whether it be an astronaut, a journalist or a geologist.
Our fragile oasis with the moon rising over the horizon

Hadfield is regularly asked by school students and people alike, how he became an astronaut, living and working in space today? "I started training to be the commander of the International Space Station when I was 14 years old." Just like most astronauts, Hadfield was inspired by the first explorers, people like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, who made those first steps on the moon all those years ago- "On July 20, 1969, like so many other people, I sat and looked at a bad, grainy little television and watched those first steps on the moon and then went outside with my family, but really alone, looked up at the moon and thought, that’s what I want to do when I grow up". Although he may not be walking on the Moon, Chris Hadfield finds himself about to become the first Canadian commander of the largest, and most complex spacecraft ever built.

First Ever Tweet in Irish Sent from Space

Before Hadfield launched from Kazakhstan a few months ago, he had roughly twenty-thousand followers on Twitter. Now, that number stands at over 400,000 and rising, all because he is sharing his orbital perspective. However, he also has his fair share of Irish fans too! Hadfield recently tweeted a picture of Dublin City at night, as seen from the ISS. "Tá Éire fíorálainn! Land of green hills and dark beer. With capital Dublin glowing in the Irish night". Within minutes, Hadfield was overwhelmed by tweets from his Irish-speaking followers, causing him to express his gratitude a few minutes later, and even took the time to comment on our cloudy weather, "Wow, I can feel the warmth of the Irish all the way up here - go raibh maith agaibh! I'll do my best to photo more cities as clouds clear".
Dublin from the ISS taken by Chris Hadfield
Kristin Hadfield, the astronaut's daughter, who is currently studying in Dublin, says she is really proud of her dad, "It's kind of incredible to think that he is in space, looking down at all of us here in Ireland," she said.

Hadfield will assume command of the International Space Station next month, when the Expedition 33/34 commander, and NASA Astronaut Kevin Ford will hand over the reigns of his ship, and will head home on his Soyuz spacecraft with his Russian colleagues Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin.

Hopefully, over the next few months up until his return to Earth in May, Hadfield will do a great job in overseeing the 130 science experiments which are currently being investigated 250 miles above our heads. The work the astronauts and cosmonauts are doing right now allow us to study the effects of long periods of weightlessness on the human body, plants, food and general spacecraft systems, which will ultimately allow us to take the next step and go onto Mars and beyond in the next couple of decades. But for now, I think we are all fairly happy to just gaze at the beauty of Hadfield's snaps of our fragile oasis, while at the same time being reminded every day about the beauty, of our awe-inspiring yet delicate, great, big, ball of blue.