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Arts & Culture(Archives)


Chris Hadfield: An Inspiring Astronaut and Artist Weaving The Universe into the Cutural Fabric of Canada

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CHRIS HADFIELD TOOK THE STAGE at MacDonald Island Park on May 6 and cheerfully addressed an excited sold out crowd of over 1,100 Fort McMurrayites. Coordinated by the Fort McMurray Public Library, the Northern Insights speakers series aims to engage and inspire the community with world-class authors and speakers. The 5th presenter in a lineup that has included luminaries ranging from Bill Cosby to Martha Stewart, Hadfield took the audience on an amazing journey to space with vivid imagery portrayed through his captivating storytelling and short video clips. His presentation was delivered with humour and humility and he engaged the audience with magnificent and dangerous anecdotes of an astronaut preparing for, and dealing with, the complexities of rocket launching, space walking and various other in-orbit duties.

A popular Canadian figure, not only for his accomplishments as an astronaut – which are plentiful – but also for his approachable and outgoing personality captured in many videos, photos, tweets and posts on various social networking sites. His social media presence while on board the International Space Station (ISS) sparked the inspiration of fans of all generations worldwide by creating a platform for the people on Earth to witness his journey and share the incredible human experience of space exploration.

The recently retired astronaut was the first Canadian to walk in space, a dream that he had pursued since the age of nine when he witnessed the first moon walk broadcast on TV. He takes great pride in recalling his commitment to years of training, conditioning, planning and learning as he worked as an engineer, a Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot and a test pilot to prepare him for his life as an astronaut.

“I was only in space about six months, but I was an astronaut for 21 years, my life was preparation on Earth – that’s what an astronaut’s life is.”

Leading by example, Chris Hadfield proves that dedication to pursuing a dream can inspire a positive change to both the life of an individual and that of society as a whole. Highlights of Hadfield’s career include flying two space shuttle missions and serving as commander of the ISS.

A best-selling author of the memoir An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Hadfield is currently working on his second book, You Are Here – Around the World in 92 Minutes, featuring some of the 45,000 snapshots he took while in space. Both publications are a direct expression of Hadfield’s perspective of the universe, and reflective of his perception of humanity, providing readers direct context to our global behaviours and our relationship to studying ourselves.

“When you’ve been around the world thousands of times, your sense of where the ‘us’ ends and ‘them’ starts just diminishes and it’s all just sort of us.” “We are just a bunch people trying to find basically the same things out of life and people need to be given the time and grace to do that.”

“All the world’s a stage” is quite possibly one of the most recognized Shakespearean quotes. Chris Hadfield changed the gravity of that famous saying from As You Like It by making a music video in space, changing the world stage to a universal stage.

“Art is important. Science and math are great – but art is worth celebrating,” Hadfield exclaimed in his presentation.

The YouTube video with over 22 million views, a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, was a true marriage of arts and science. A year ago, Hadfield released the music video that was recorded on the ISS that includes him singing and strumming the current remaining Canadian resident on the ISS – a guitar. The guitar remains in space so that others can create music in their spare time while orbiting our planet. Recently the video was taken down as permission was only granted to use it for a year. In a time of extreme convenience, the removal of the video was hard for some fans to accept.

A reddit post from May 13 highlights Hadfield’s thoughts:

“We have been amazed and delighted that so many people enjoyed it - and maybe saw what spaceflight can really be like. It helped show that humans have left Earth, and that the Space Station is a new stage, for not just science and exploration, but for our art and music too. With exploration comes insight – with perspective comes self-realization.”

Inspiring future generations and helping to create opportunities for the children of Canada and the world, Hadfield regularly speaks to schools and takes part in humanitarian causes.

“One of the most important things you can do is to inspire a young person to seize the opportunities you didn’t have at their age”

The hour-long presentation was closed with the song I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing) a collaborative creation Hadfield co-wrote with Ed Robertson in partnership with the Coalition for Music Education, CBC Music and the Canadian Space Agency. Originally the piece was performed with Hadfield in space and over 700,000 around the nation on the ground joining in for the Music Monday celebration.

Fort McMurray can be perceived as a hard place to live and thrive, but as Hadfield proves, it is all just a matter of accepting a paradigm shift into our lives so we can all share our joy and hope for the present and the future.

“The easiest thing in the world is to be cynical and critical – one of the hardest things in the world is to actually do things.”

For a short time, our demanding hard working city was captivated by one of the hardest working individuals in our nation and inspired by his message that we are all one, and sometimes it takes seeing things from a different perspective – say from space, to really understand who we are as people, the beauty that life has to offer, and the importance of nurturing and empowering our children for the future


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