Chris Hadfield’s secret Twitter weapon: his son

Chris Hadfield photo TWITTER DIARY  Commander Chris Hadfield has harnessed social media - especially Twitter - with the help of his son, Evan, to keep his mission at the International Space Station in the public eye.

Chris Hadfield photo
TWITTER DIARY Commander Chris Hadfield has harnessed social media – especially Twitter – with the help of his son, Evan, to keep his mission
at the International Space Station in the public eye.

If you follow Sarnia-born astronaut Chris Hadfield on Twitter, you might think life at the International Space Station is not that busy.

The first commander of the floating international space laboratory is a prolific Tweeter, sending about eight pictures a day from his @Cmdr_Hadfield account, more than 4,500 in all.

But the commander has a secret Twitter weapon, his 28 year-old son, Evan, who has basically made it his full time job to help the astronaut share what’s going on in space with the world.

Based out of Europe, Evan communicates with Hadfield by email daily and they plan out what pictures he’ll send through Twitter.

“I’m try to make dads life as simple as possible…since a  great deal of his time is taken up by his own things on the space station. He’s incredibly busy,” says Evan.

Evan will monitor the news and send his father ideas on things he could highlight. Often, because he does follow the news on Twitter, he’s already heard about big events, such as the bombing at the Boston Marathon. That night, Hadfield’s Twitter feed featured a picture of Boston at night. It was retweeted 5,000 times.

Evan says Hadfield takes between 30 and 100 pictures per day, giving him a large inventory to choose from. “It’s obviously a great big allure, being in the window taking pictures and he wants to have a lot for when he gets back too because whenever he gets back he wants to be able to post nice photos for people,” says Evan.

The strategy to use social media and technology to keep interest in the space program high has worked. Hadfield has over 681,000 people following him on Twitter and it is growing by about 1,000 people a day.

Chris Hadfield photo IMAGES OF EARTH Sarnia-born astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted this photo of Boston on the night of the Boston Marathon bombings. His son, Evan, is the man behind the astronaut's prolific Twitter use.

Chris Hadfield photo
IMAGES OF EARTH Sarnia-born astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted this photo of Boston on the night of the Boston Marathon bombings. His son, Evan, is the man behind the astronaut’s prolific Twitter use.

And surprisingly perhaps, only half of those are Canadians. Evan says Hadfield has a big following in the United Kingdom and surprisingly a small community in Brazil. A politician in Porto Alegre, Brazil with a huge Twitter following mentioned Hadfield had taken a picture of the community and his followers quickly signed up to see what was coming next. “All you need is the spark that makes the fire, some cases it’s a celebrity…that makes the country paying attention.”

Evan says the success of the social media campaign has gone beyond their expectations. “We were hoping we would hit 100,000 (Twitter followers)…from here on up it’s all just cherry on the cake I guess,” he says. But Evan says this not just a numbers game. He wants to keep the mission in the public eye to keep people interested in exploring the great beyond.

“I think that it would be fantastic when Dad came back to Canada people would stop and say I recognize him, I’m proud of him…and thanks him for whatever; to really understand who he is and what he has done for the country when he comes back. Then I would feel we’ve done a good job.”

When Hadfield returns to earth in May, Evan’s social media work will eventually disappear. He plans to move to Corunna and figure out what he’ll do next.

One thing is certain; he has no plans to follow in his father’s footsteps. “No desire…he does it very well and it is a very difficult thing,” he says adding. “It’s sort of a thousand points of luck worked out at the same time that I’m capable to be here to help him at this period of both of our lives.”

And Evan says he’s enjoying what he does. “I help the (Canadian) space agency, I help Dad, it’s fun and obviously you can see, you get a real reward for your work.”

– Heather Wright

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