'My body is catching up with the change': Chris Hadfield on his painful return to gravity

Astronaut hosts first press conference since return to Earth

Mikhail Metzel/AP

LONGUEUIL, Que. – Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield says his body feels confused and banged-up by the effects of gravity after a five-month stay in space.

After floating around weightlessly for months, suddenly, he needs to keep his own head aloft. He feels dizzy. And because there are no callouses on his feet anymore, he says, he feels like he’s walking on hot coals.

A first trip to the gym was excruciating, he says, because it felt like two people had jumped on him when he was trying to do a situp.

”My neck is sore and my back is sore,” Hadfield told a news conference from Houston on Thursday.

”It feels like I played a hard game of rugby yesterday or played full-contact hockey yesterday and I haven’t played in a while.”

Hadfield returned to Earth on Monday night after his stay aboard the International Space Station — a trip that included a period as commander of the orbiting station.

The 53-year-old astronaut said his body is confused at the moment.

”My body was quite happy living in space without gravity,” he said.

“(It’s) a very empowering environment where you can touch the wall and do somersaults, where you can move a refrigerator around with your fingertips and never worry about which way was up.

”Well, that all changed when our Soyuz slammed back into the Earth. And my body is catching up with the change. And so the symptims are dizziness. It’s like when you come off a ride at the CNE or something.”

Hadfield has also announced that his use of social media, which earned him an international audience, won’t end with his return to Earth.

He had 20,000 Twitter followers when he blasted off with Russian space colleague Roman Romanenko and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn on Dec. 19, 2012. Upon his return to Earth this week, Hadfield was hovering around one million followers.

Hadfield said the point of using social media was not to gain fame — but to teach people about space exploration.

He said it felt rewarding to receive a message from someone who said he didn’t even know Canada had a space program, until he saw Hadfield’s tweets.

For more on Chris Hadfield, check out the latest Maclean’s eBook #GoodMorningEarth.

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