The Last Word On Nothing
Look Out My Window, There Goes Home  May 2013

Whereas the Microbe  April 2013

TGIPF: A Deep-Sea Squid Does It Upside-Down and Backward  March 2013

TGIPF: Alligator Awesome  February 2013

Flakey  January 2013

Roadies of Science  December 2012

Left Turn  August 2012

Topsy-Turvy  August 2012

Brave New Worlds  June 2012

June Gloom  June 2012

Lonely Abalone  May 2012

Yes We Did (Twice)  May 2012

Fruit Fly Walks into a Bar . . .  March 2012

Snail Season  March 2012

Auditing Astronomy Class  December 2011

Wonder TK  September 2011

May 2013  
Look Out My Window, There Goes Home
by Cameron Walker

Astronaut Chris Hadfield is making space meaningful again

Chris Hadfield ‏@Cmdr_Hadfield  Tonight's Finale: The Moon ushering in the dawn over the Southeastern United States

Chris Hadfield ‏@Cmdr_Hadfield
Tonight’s Finale: The Moon ushering in the dawn over the Southeastern United States

Most of the people I follow on Facebook are friends from high school and college, so I usually see photos of kids, drinking establishments, and scenic shots of the West.  But recently I caught on to what 710,000 twitter followers and 219,354 Facebook friends (as of Tuesday) already knew–and started following Col. Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut who has lived aboard the International Space Station since mid-December and became the ISS commander in March.

Hadfield has become a social media superstar, of the best kind: he’s shilling not for himself, but for space. He posts delightful YouTube videos that answer questions I didn’t even know I had: how astronauts sleep. How they cut their fingernails. Why they make their sandwiches with tortillas. How they cry.

He’s answered questions from around the world on Reddit. He and another famous space commander had a live chat. He tweets and posts gorgeous photos of the Earth from on high every day. He had an April Fool’s Day encounter with an alien. He sang a song from space with Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson. His tweets strike a fine balance between aw-shucks and awestruck. He can see 16 sunrises a day.

It’s true, all the zero-gravity humor and the instant contact with space gives might be giving me a false sense of closeness with my new favorite astronaut. I was particularly reminded of this when reading an essay by the commander’s son Evan, who’s been the on-the-ground force behind Hadfield’s extensive social media presence. I won’t ever know what it’s like to have an astronaut– and now, an extremely visible one—as a father.

St. Patrick's Day on the ISS

St. Patrick’s Day on the ISS/NASA

But even as an onlooker, maybe this connection, mirage or not, can help me, too. The photos I see of Earth through Hadfield’s eyes seem more meaningful, somehow, than what I read in the news. Forest fires in Mongolia and Australia from above seem more devastating; a pit mine in a green landscape becomes a deeper scar.

I was thinking about this as I walked home today: maybe the illusion is that from a distance we can’t see the complexities that divide us. But I also started thinking that the change in perspective might also show us the world as we hope it could be. Washington D.C. and Jerusalem look peaceful, united by illumination, while a mining town in Kazakhstan starkly beautiful. And maybe that’s the thing—the photos show the beauty that we can’t recognize when it’s right in front of us. Hadfield’s return is planned for mid-May, and until then, I’ll be watching the world in a way I never have.

I have never had more love and respect for our planet than I do now, seeing it this way.…

— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) April 22, 2013


I haven’t always been fascinated with space or space travel (maybe this deficiency runs in the family), and I’ve been known to get Neil Armstrong confused with another famous Neil. So when I saw Hadfield’s post on Facebook earlier this week, it took me a moment to understand what he was talking about:

Talked with Neil Young tonight, he in his hybrid 1959 Lincoln, [me] in a spaceship. Discussed Earth ecology & writing music. A heart of gold.

Neil’s not the only one, Commander. Keep us all searching for a heart of gold.


Bonus tracks:

David Bowie, Space Oddity

Hadfield, on Reddit: “Yes, I love Bowie, and I’ve been singing and playing that song. Changed the words a bit, though, so Major Tom has a happier ending.”

Elton John, Rocket Man

The Chieftans and the Houston Symphony, featuring Chris Hadfield (guitar, vocals) and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman (flute), Moondance