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Astronaut Chris Hadfield started career flying gliders at Mountain View

Col. (Ret.) Chris Hadfield speaks to the media at the Quinte Human Resources Professionals Association presentation at the Empire Theatre in Belleville on Sept. 25. - Photo by Ross Lees

Col. (Ret.) Chris Hadfield speaks to the media at the Quinte Human Resources Professionals Association presentation at the Empire Theatre in Belleville on Sept. 25. – Photo by Ross Lees

By Ross Lees
At nine years old and before Canada even had an astronaut program, Chris Hadfield decided he wanted to be an astronaut. Early progression along the path to eventually commanding the International Space Centre included flying Schweizer 222s and 223 gliders at Mountain View Airport in Prince Edward County and living in “tent city” at CFB Trenton.

It was those gliders at Mountain View that gave Colonel (Retired) Chris Hadfield his first taste of slipping the surly bonds of earth at the age of 15.

And cadets, officers and staff of 851 Prince Edward Air Cadet Squadron were among the sold-out audience listening to  Hadfield's presentation at the Empire Theatre in Belleville. Beth Globe photo

And cadets, officers and staff of 851 Prince Edward Air Cadet Squadron were among the sold-out audience listening to Hadfield’s presentation at the Empire Theatre in Belleville. Beth Globe photo

And cadets, officers and staff of 851 Prince Edward Air Cadet Squadron were among the sold-out audience listening to  Hadfield’s presentation at the Empire Theatre in Belleville.

“My first solo flight was right here,” Hadfield said, prior to his address. “My instructor was a great little Scottish guy named Crawford McCreath. He was just a little bit of a guy and I got to talk to him after I’d already flown in space. It was a real treat to show him where his teaching had taken me.”

Air cadets was a conscious part of that plan, he said.

“I mean, I consciously thought that would be the coolest thing ever and how do I turn myself into that (an astronaut). How do you go from being a little kid here in southern Ontario to walking on the moon? Air Cadets was one of the things I was doing because you fly in space. It’s a verb – learn to fly, and scuba dive and languages and engineering and all the other things you might need. And, amazingly enough, I flew in space three times and commanded a space ship and it started here.”

851 Prince Edward Air Cadet LAC Wiik proudly represented the squadron on stage. Beth Globe photo

851 Prince Edward Air Cadet LAC Wiik proudly represented the squadron on stage. Beth Globe photo

Hadfield said he thought the whole human race could benefit from 100 orbits of earth at the window of the International Space Station (ISS).

“I really think everyone should see 100 orbits of the world,” he stated. “I think it fundamentally gives you a respect and a sense of togetherness, a patience and also an impression of the earth’s strength and immutability that would be really helpful for everyone’s decision making. We get so wrapped up in the concerns of this week or the concerns of this year and we very seldom get an actual perspective of the whole world itself.”

He said the world’s environment is indescribably tough having withstood asteroid impacts and electromagnetic impulses from the sun and volcanic eruptions.

“The world is going to be fine,” he indicated, adding, “it is us who is threatened. We’re threatening ourselves. We’re messing up our own pool. That’s what we really need to be concerned about and Canada’s probably not the epicenter of the people who are going to suffer from it, but there are parts of the world where hundreds of millions of people are on the verge of being starved by the change in the environment. That’s the real concern. Are we willing to allow hundreds of millions of us to die because of environmental change? That’s the real issue. It’s the environment that keeps us alive and I think that’s the issue and that’s the reason the United Nations (UN) is talking about it. That’s the type of global view, I think, that everybody needs to have in order to get back to individual decision making. It’s not somebody else that’s causing this problem, it’s each one of us.”

Viewing the world from the ISS develops a much broader perspective, he said.

“The world is huge and magnificent and constantly refreshing itself and you really start to see it is a complete place and all of us are kind of in it together and it’s not easy to act on tradition, but with increased capability and increased awareness should come increased responsibility.”

One of the biggest changes in the world over the past few years has been the social networking system, he said. On his other trip into space, he had just a film camera and a ham radio, a much more restrictive situation than his final flight when he had digital cameras and the ability to use social media like Facebook with connected with people almost as quickly as things happened.

“Probably the biggest boon of the internet itself is the rapidly increased ability to share ideas and the accelerated capability that comes from that,” he said.

Hadfield sees Canada maintaining its stellar position in space exploration.

“Canada has been one of the world leaders in space exploration since the beginning.  We were the third nation on earth in space after the Soviet Union with Sputnik and the Americans. We were third and we’ve been going to space ever since and we’ve flown eight Canadians in space. We lead the world in telecommunications because we have to. We’re not very many people spread over a huge area and we lead the world in remote sensing, in trying to understand and see our whole north, and we lead the world in robotics, undoubtedly.”

He said he sees Canada’s astronauts continuing to help develop new systems of travelling into space and to the moon and contributing to space exploration.

“I think the way we’ve done it is smart,” he noted. “We don’t build a huge launch infrastructure, we look for areas that are profitable and challenging for our businesses and our universities and we pursue those. We’ve been doing it for 52 or 53 years and we’re kind of the envy of the world, that we take the amount the government invests and it’s almost a $3.5 billion industry in Canada. It’s not perfect, but we do a really good job of it.”

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  1. Joanne Fralick says:

    Brilliant lecture!
    I would go again tonight!

  2. Rachael Tracey says:

    Looking good, cadets!

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