OTTAWA – Astronaut Chris Hadfield mesmerized a group of schoolchildren Friday as he held a question-and-answer session from space, moderated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen.
Flying above the earth at 7.71 kilometres per second, Hadfield appeared to relish the chance to describe for his young audience what it’s like to live and work in space.
“Does Canada look like you would expect it to from space?” asked Darcy McRae, 11, of Kanata, Ont.
“Does it look just like it does on a map?”
Hadfield answered each question thoughtfully and thoroughly, filling the minds of those listening with thoughts of what it would be like to be in his shoes.
Sitting on a sofa at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, the prime minister congratulated Hadfield on taking command of the International Space Station.
Hadfield said he’s incredibly proud to have the opportunity, saying he’s amazed at what a huge, rich country Canada is.
“I get to go from Vancouver Island and see the Arctic and see the Maritimes in 10 minutes, coast to coast,” he said as he described the “smooth as silk” feeling of speeding around the globe.
“It just fills me with pride.”
The Sarnia, Ont., native told the children the last place he sees as he zips across the country is the rugged rock of Newfoundland and Labrador and Cape Breton, N.S.
On Wednesday, Hadfield took control of the International Space Station — the first Canadian to do so. But it wasn’t his only space ‘first.’
Hadfield was the first Canadian to be a NASA mission specialist when he went on a space shuttle mission in November 1995 to dock with the Russian space station Mir. He was also the first Canadian to ever board the station, and the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm in orbit.
Hadfield is scheduled to end his current five-month space mission in mid-May.
He encouraged his young audience to think about becoming an astronaut, telling them to educate themselves, take care of their bodies and always make decisions — right or wrong — and take on challenges.
That message was quickly absorbed by Ava Dandia of Maxville, Ont., who revealed her desire to consider a space-based career.
“It could be difficult, but overall it could be kinda cool,” she said. “I definitely want to do it.”