Chris Hadfield’s Tales from Space

chrishadfield-webTo celebrate Canada Day today, let’s have a look at some of the most exciting space stories from Chris Hadfield’s book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.



Purchase An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Col. Chris Hadfield from Powells at this link and you’ll help fund with no extra cost to you. Thank you!


Breaking into Mir with a Swiss Army Knife

When Chris Hadfield arrived at the Mir space station via the Atlantis shuttle in November 1995, he and Atlantis commander Ken Cameron couldn’t get the hatch open to let them into the station. The engineers had sealed their doorway too tightly. “So,” says Hadfield in his book, “we did the true space-age thing: we broke into Mir using a Swiss Army knife. Never leave the planet without one.”


Bandits in a Blaze

In 2008, Yuri Malenchenko, Peggy Whitson, and Yi So-Yeon returned to Earth from the ISS via a small rocket called a Soyuz, which was thrown off course as it entered the atmosphere. The Soyuz landed miles away from where it was supposed to be, in a grassy field that burst into flame upon impact. The space travelers were forced to stay in the ship until the smoke outside cleared. When they finally did come out, they were burgled by some local looters who mistook their spacecraft for a boat. The astronauts were too weakened from the crash landing to stop them.


Rocket Rolling Down a Mountain

In 1975, Vasili Lazarev and Oleg Makarov tried to launch in a Soyuz, but “after a serious booster malfunction partway through ascent, pyrotechnics automatically fired to blast the crew’s capsule free of the rocket,” says Hadfield in his book. The Soyuz crashed back to earth on a snowy slope… and then began to roll downward. Luckily, the parachutes got caught on some vegetation and stopped the rocket just before it rolled off a 500-foot sheer drop.


Going Blind in Space

During Chris Hadfield’s first spacewalk, the anti-fog chemical he used to clean his helmet got into his eyes. Without being able to touch his eyes and without gravity to force out tears, the toxin made his eyes sting worse and worse until he was temporary blind in both eyes. Here he was blinded in space, clinging to the outside of the spaceship. Luckily, the toxin eventually worked its way out and Hadfield was able to finish his work. Because of this incident, NASA switched to Johnson’s No-More-Tears baby soap.


Music in Space

In 2013, Chris Hadfield shot a music video on board the ISS with his rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” This went live the as Hadfield prepared to return to Earth. To date, the video has been viewed more than 35 million times. More impressively to me, a devout Barenaked Ladies fan, Chris Hadfield also co-wrote a song with Ed Robertson called “I.S.S. (Is Someone Singing)” for Music Monday, a televised event organized by the Coalition for Music Education. The Barenaked Ladies performed the song live with a choir of youths called the Wexford Gleeks, while patching in a live feed of Chris Hadfield in the Japanese lab on the ISS playing guitar and singing along.


Nelson Noven is Anglonerd’s science and culture correspondent.

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