Twitter and video links make it seem like Hadfield hasn’t left home – almost

This Fat Tuesday self portrait of Sarnia-born Astronaut Chris Hadfield is one of the many he sends earthward, helping to keep in touch with the world and his wife, Helene.

This Fat Tuesday self portrait of Sarnia-born Astronaut Chris Hadfield is one of the many he sends earthward, helping to keep in touch with the world and his wife, Helene.

Helene Hadfield can’t contain her excitement about her husband’s growing popularity.

Sarnia born Commander Chris Hadfield is currently circling the earth in the International Space Station and will soon take command of the floating laboratory – the first Canadian to do so. His profile has skyrocketed while he’s thousands of miles above the earth, thanks to his prolific use of social media – mostly Twitter – and highly advanced technology which allows him to speak to people on the phone and via video conferencing.

Hadfield has been taking pictures of the earth and, with the help of his son Evan back on the ground, has been tweeting them around the globe. Those photos have pushed the number of his followers past the 325,000 mark.

His wife, Helene, has been watching Hadfield’s constant presence in the news with joy. “I know how much he loves sharing (the experience) with the kids but also with everyone,” she says. “He is getting so much more out of this mission because he’s sharing it.”

Hadfield has been to space twice before. “He wants everybody to understand all of it so for him to be able to share it – it increase his joy even more.”

The new technology which allows Hadfield to share his experience with the world also helps Helene. The couple talk almost daily. There are also video chats. Helene says it is a far cry from his first space flight.

“His first flight he had a ham radio connection. I would say something, it would be relayed – I think it was through a guy in Newfoundland – it was excruciating,” she says with a laugh from Utah. “They were phone calls the next one but there was a delay.

“Now it sounds like you when I talk to him…it’s fascinating to me…and there are video conferences and emails…it is very different. You’re in touch a lot more.”

But even with all the contact, Helene admits it is still not the same as having Hadfield on earth. “Funnily enough, I do miss him,” she says. “It is not the same as getting a hug…I got really sick where I thought I was going to end up in the hospital…I was away from home…normally if something really bad happened he could be on a plane; but he couldn’t this time.

“I just want that husbandly hug saying it is okay everything is fine…I have to keep a brave face so he doesn’t worry,” says Helene. Normally, the couple doesn’t spend more than a month apart “because we like each other” so the six month odyssey is tough. But Helene doesn’t mind. “I’m so happy for him because he’s having such a great time, so it doesn’t matter.”

And she says he is having the time of his life – excited to do this work. But Helene says that’s not that unusual.  “There is nothing he doesn’t find exciting…even if it doing the clean up on the weekend…I don’t care what it is he’s excited…he gives 100 percent to everything no matter what it is…even if it is a boring desk job which he doesn’t see it as boring at all…he is going to do everything all the time without a peck of a complaint.”

And Helene says there wasn’t even a complaint about the cramped space in the Soyuz rocket which Hadfield traveled to space with his two Russian colleagues for two days. “That rocket is so tiny,” Helene exclaimed…but he said if he had to spend two days up in a little tin can with no toilet no privacy, these are two good guys to do it with.”

– Heather Wright