One of the world’s great communicators, Commander Chris Hadfield has the gift of making the awesome accessible and inspiring others to become their best selves. He told the packed house that working in space has left him eternally optimistic and full of joy. He had the same effect on his audience.
Hadfield was the first Canadian to command a spaceship and the first to walk in space, all inspired by seeing the 1969 moon landing as a lad. He thought, “How do I change who I might become so that I’ll be ready to tackle the risk of space?” Sound advice for everyone, no matter what their goals might be.
He said: “The day I first left Earth,” and everyone gasped, but he wasn’t finished. “It was a binary kind of day. In a few hours you’ll either be floating around in space — or dead.” Want stats? The odds of dying during that lift off were 1 in 38.
With short films and photographs from space Hadfield conveyed a sliver of his experience, with all the terror, glee and wonder that entailed. We saw geology and tectonics “in action”, and he illustrated the horrors of climate change using photos of the Aral Sea, destroyed by mankind in just a generation.
Stories were frightening AND funny. The team on Earth did an operating system upgrade on the ISS computer. They assured Hadfield nothing would go wrong. Except it did, and in the dark, in free-fall, by resurrecting an old OS called Mighty Mouse and a ham radio, he wound up imploring strangers in Brazil to ring Houston for him.
Hadfield never preaches, but gives great advice. Try to see the possibilities in your life, he urged. “The best gift to give yourself is to think about your vision of perfection based on what you want to achieve and what you are doing to reach those goals. Picture how it would be if everything you do goes perfectly. That will help you choose what to do next to go in the direction of your dreams.”
He closed with songs and paid homage to David Bowie without becoming mawkish. Music, he reminded us, is an ancient, powerful way to connect. For all the science this man understands, it was striking to hear him say: “When we REALLY want to communicate, we use art.”