Gifts from space: Humanity, beauty and wonder

“It is good to renew one’s wonder. Space travel has again made children of us all.”

~Ray Bradbury

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“Spaceflight finale: To some this may look like a sunset. But it’s a new dawn.”
~Cdr Hadfield, May 13th, tweeted from the ISS

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is back on solid ground. And he brought back some great home-coming gifts from his travels through space: gorgeous photographs, cool music, amazing science and some things that are little more intangible. Things like humanity, beauty and wonder.

To me, the world feels different, more hopeful, since Hadfield started tweeting and singing from space five months ago. As writer Ray Bradbury predicted, this latest expedition has renewed our sense of wonder.

That’s partly because Hadfield was very connected and very likeable. (Dare I say, very Canadian.)

There are seven billion of us on earth, and I think most of us could relate to this one man in space: With his camera snapping pictures out his “window”, teaching us how to make a sandwich space and sending a valentine’s home to his wife.

As he travelled through space, his humanity was our humanity. He is us. A remarkable human being to be sure, an astronaut, fighter pilot, engineer, musician (and more), but still, one human being who reminded us that we are all explorers, scientists and caretakers here on planet Earth (“that brilliant ball of blue”).

Where this will take us? Will it inspire our children in art and science? Will it encourage all of us to take better care of our planet and the people on it?

It’s hard to know the long-term impact. We humans are fickle. But here’s what I know for sure:

  • My daughter and her schoolmates feel a very strong connection to the man in space (a fellow Canadian to boot!). The science and music he shared with them will last a lifetime.
  • In space, the “sky” is black like “like endless velvet”, tears don’t fall, borders between countries look like lines drawn in the sand, and you can see the sun set and rise sixteen times: Just a few observations gleaned from Hadfield’s daily tweets from space. Every day, he shared fascinating facts, photographs and videos about life in space–from the mundane (brushing his teeth) to the extraordinary (looking at the stars)–with some 900,000 followers on Twitter. His images taught us more about geography, the environment, Earth’s fragile beauty and our shared humanity.
  • He filled the skies with music–including a very moving sing-along from space with thousands of school children across Canada (in which he promoted the importance of music in schools). And their parents went along for the ride too.

Something special–something new–happened somewhere between earth and space during the past five months.

This is not about one astronaut becoming a “celebrity”. It is about one astronaut showing us the humanity, beauty and wonder of our universe and our life on planet earth:

“…the exploration of the universe around our planet is something that can become part of everybody’s life…the science is important, but also the humanity of it, the beauty of it, the wonder of it, the perspective it gives to us, and the music that goes along with it. Those things are what makes exploration worthwhile, because of what they bring back to us all.” ~Commander Chris Hadfield, May 8, 2013

Thank you Commander Chris Hadfield. I can’t wait to see what you–what we–do next.

And, in case you missed them, here are a few of Hadfield’s most memorable moments from space:

1. Filling the skies with music

“ISS (Is Somebody Singing)”, a song by Cdr Chris Hadfield, with Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies (lyrics are on the screen so you can sing along–I dare you not to!):

The singing astronaut also made the first music video in space. Here is his moving version of “Space Oddity” by David Bowie:

2. Sharing the journey, one tweet at a time:

3. Bringing science home:

“Tears in space (don’t fall)”

Watch more of Hadfield’s videos at the Canadian Space Agency website: http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/search/video/

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