It was U.S. President John F. Kennedy who set the goal of putting a man on the moon in the early 1960s. It was Neil Armstrong who would be that first man to step on the moon, saying: “It was one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Now, Canadian Commander Chris Hadfield, whom Armstrong inspired to become an astronaut, has just ended his space odyssey by singing David Bowie’s Space Oddity, once again fascinating us with space travel and exploration.
Commander Hadfield’s latest voyage in space began in December 2012, and took command of the International Space Station two months ago. Since he began his voyage, Hadfield has treated us to extraordinary visuals, communicated daily in a personal way through social media, and demonstrated amazing musical skills in a space capsule. More than any other astronaut, he made us enter his world, educated us, made us feel special, and once again made us believe in science, imagination and achievement.
During his third mission, the 54-year-old astronaut from Sarnia, Ontario, made many in his country and beyond feel the excitement, the joy and the challenges of being in space. His messages, often delivered in both of Canada’s official languages—French and English—probably did more to unite his fellow Canadians than any law or politician has in several decades.
Feeling good, however, is no guarantee for renewed commitment to expanding space programs. U.S. and Canadian space programs—much like other government sponsored enterprises—have suffered setbacks and budget cuts in recent years. Hadfield’s unique approach may have sparked some interest and excitement, but will it be enough to provoke a change in policy direction?
This being said, it is a moment to rejoice. The people of Canada have greeted this space adventurer but, as we welcome Chris Hadfield back to Earth, what seems more important is a reawakening to the wonders of space exploration, the unlimited boundaries of science and the promise it still holds for mankind. Chris Hadfield was born a year before John F. Kennedy became president, but 54 years later he made Kennedy’s dream and challenge seem as compelling as ever.