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Astronaut Chris Hadfield On His New Book And Tweeting In Space

Beth Lipoff

For five months, from December 2012 to May 2013, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield served as the commander of the International Space Station.

Hadfield conducted a record-setting number of scientific experiments. He also gained a reputation as the "most social media savvy astronaut" by sharing his daily life, posting photos on Tumblr and Twitter and videos on YouTube. 

A musician who's played guitar in space since his first mission in 1995, one of Hadfield's most memorable videos, with nearly 24 million views to date, was a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity." It was how he capped his time at the station, and according to NASA, it was the first music video created in space. 

"When there's a moonrise, it falls from the world like a little egg," Hadfield told Up to Date host Steve Kraske. "Sunrise is like a liquid kaleidoscope."

Hadfield spoke with Kraske about his time in space, and his recent collection of photographs, You Are here: Around the World in 92 Minutes

Interview Highlights 

On the inspiration to become an astronaut:

I think my first inspiration was watching Star Trek. I’m just old enough that I saw it when it first came on television. I lived on a farm. You know, a fairly confined existence on a rural farm. To have that huge explosion of possibility, of fantasy.

But more importantly than that, at the same time was the race to the moon. And the day that people walked on the moon, in the summer of ‘69, I was just about to turn 10 years old. And I think it was that crossover between fantasy and reality that really turned on the light in my own head. And that night, July 20, when Neil [Armstrong] and Buzz [Aldrin] walked on the moon, I consciously decided to start turning myself into an astronaut.

On the televised event of the moon walk of 1969:

It was the original reality TV, warts and all, no matter what happened. If those guys blew it, if they crashed, if they messed up, it was all going to the world live. A really brave thing to do…

They’d done just enough testing to know for sure that they had a pretty good shot at it. And Neil Armstrong was the right guy. He landed on the moon with 16 seconds of fuel left. Pretty impressive.

On the two biggest challenges in training:

One is maintaining sort of a tenacious patience. Recognizing that you are devoting a huge amount of your own effort and training and ability towards something that’s probably never going to happen. How to do you maintain optimism doing that … training towards being an astronaut. What are the odds?

…The other is the immense memory task. When you’re on board a space station for six months, at any given moment the difference between life and death is you remembering something some technician told you six years ago, saying “Hey, just remember this, ‘cause this may really help.” Somehow trying to keep the huge amount of things that we’re required to know in order to operate a spaceship, keep them front and center in your mind.

On why liftoff is like “being in the jaws of some enormous dog”:

It’s so violent. And it’s a violence that’s so much bigger than yourself.

As a pilot member of the space shuttle, or a crew member of the space shuttle, you have control. You can make all sorts of things different as a result of your actions, but the straight physical nature of it is something just to be endured. It’s an immense amount of power, it’s a crazy amount of power. Millions and millions of pounds of thrust, you know, it could lift a building up into the air.

HEAR MORE: Chris Hadfield will attend a reception at the Linda Hall Library at 6 p.m. Tuesday. He'll also talk about his collection of photographs, You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes, at Unity Temple on the Country Club Plaza from 7 to 8 p.m. 

Hadfield returns to Kansas City, Mo., in February as the keynote speaker for the Folk Alliance International Conference

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.