Hadfield readjusting to life on terra firma
Dirt in the window and the smell of spring were the first signs Sarnia-born Astronaut Chris Hadfield was home.
He returned from commanding the International Space Station May 13 and spoke to members of the media for the first time this morning as he was trying to adjust to the effects of living in a gravity-regulated world.
Hadfield describes the landing of the Soyuz space ship in the fields of Kazakhstan like a “car crash” and says the first “true sense of home” was dirt in the window of the spaceship and the smell of spring when the hatch was opened.
“I looked at (American astronaut) Tom (Marshburn), we could smell the prairie …smelled of wind in the grass…we both looked at each other and smiled,” says Hadfield. “You could smell spring.”
The next reality of earth was gravity. Hadfield told reporters from Houston that he could even feel its effects on the way he was speaking. “I felt it on my lips and tongue immediately when I landed,” he says “I hadn’t realized I learned I’d learned to talk without gravity in space.”
And there are a lot of other effects. Hadfield says he and Marshburn have been walking around like “a pair of old duffers” thrown off balance after being weightless so long.
“It’s confusing for my body right now…my body was quite happy living without gravity in space where you can push a refrigerator around with your finger.”
Hadfield says there is a lot of dizziness “like coming off a ride at the CNE.” And his neck and back are sore because now he has to hold his head up. “It’s like I played full contact hockey.”
Hadfield is also trying to grasp all of his experiences in space. “It was a personal experience, and incredible experience,” he said in French. “It is difficult to figure the whole thing out in my head right now.”
Part of that is the celebrity he has gained from the trip. Hadfield has nearly one million Twitter followers after he constantly tweeted pictures and videos of life in space. And his version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity has over 10 million YouTube hits.
When a reporter suggested Hadfield had the international celebrity similar to the first man on the moon Neil Armstrong, he shook his head and looked a little baffled. “I have not seen what you did…(I just wanted to )give an opportunity for the Canadians to see that everything is possible.”
Hadfield says his goal while doing the thousands of experiments was to show as many people as possible what it was like. “I understood there was a growing interest and following but it was not my purpose,” says Hadfield. “My purpose is to help people understand what we were doing on the space station and what was possible.”
“They followed me (on Twitter) because it is interesting because it’s not just one thing, there is a poetry, there is beauty, there is hope in.”
Hadfield pointed to experiments “learning about the fundamental nature of matter” and the Let’s Talk Science project which saw 7,000 students on earth doing experiments with Hadfield in space as amazing learning opportunities and discoveries.
As for his future, Hadfield knows only a few things. Scientist will continue to probe his body to discover the effects of space aging and how it applies to our aging process. He also plans to be in Ottawa for Canada Day and will be the Parade Marshall at the Calgary Stampede. But after that, Hadfield hasn’t thought a lot about what comes next.
“I’m still trying to stand up straight and I still have to sit in the shower so I don’t fall down,” he says adding asking about the future is “like asking an infant about their PhD- I’m not there yet.”