Canadian astronaut calls Hadfield 'a wonderful spokesperson' for agency

February 7, 2013 - 5:26pm Updated: February 7, 2013 - 8:03pm
Chris Hadfield had a Twitter conversation with William Shatner on Feb. 7. Photo taken from Chris Hadfield's Twitter account.
Chris Hadfield had a Twitter conversation with William Shatner on Feb. 7. Photo taken from Chris Hadfield's Twitter account.

When people think about space travel they don't often think of Canada, but one Canadian astronaut is putting the country's space program on the map.

Chris Hadfield, who will be the first Canadian astronaut to command the International Space Station next month, is on a five month mission and spoke to Canadian actor William Shatner from the space station on Thursday. The conversation was broadcast live on several television networks.

Jeremy Hansen is a rookie astronaut at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in Montreal who coordinated the intergalactic chat.

He told News Talk Radio that having a vocal, social media-savvy astronaut like Hadfield has raised awareness about Canada's space program and what the country is able to contribute.

"Canadians now know, 'hey we do have a space station,' we are part of it as Canada, we played a key role in building it," said Hansen.

Canada's key role was the contribution of two robotic arms of the International Space Station; Canadarm2 and Dextre.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's shot from space, looking down at the City of Boston.

While the CSA is based in Montreal, the agency has a research building in Saskatoon. It's part of the Innovation Place Research Park on the University of Saskatchewan campus.

Only three astronauts are currently training at the CSA. There are historically 12, but Hansen said many have retired or moved on.

Following his chat with Shatner, Hadfield answered some questions from people at the space agency. During that time he explained how people on earth look up at the sky and see black.

But Hansen said Hadfield saw something else.

"He said the sky is filled with the white of so many stars beaming back on earth and it's almost the exact opposite. He said he can't see constellations because they're washed out by so much light coming from the universe, and that just really inspired me," said Hansen, who has yet to be in space.

Despite recent budget cuts, he believes Hadfield's mission proves the importance of having a space program in Canada--and sharing that perspective of space with humanity.

"He's bringing space back to Canada for us. More people are paying attention than I think we've ever seen previously."

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