Early last year I started to follow Commander Hadfield on twitter, mostly because of the amazing photos that he tweeted from the International Space Station. My kids loved looking at the pictures taken from space and so did I – it was amazing to be able to see the world from such a different perspective. We also had a lot of fun watching his videos on YouTube – short, fun clips about how to clean your teeth in space, or making and eating space food, or what happens when you squeeze a flannel out in zero gravity.
This opened up a new world for me – I genuinely had not been aware that there was a manned space station up there! And it was real fun discovering stuff alongside the kids – they’d ask me questions about space, I’d pretend to think about the answer while googling frantically, then they’d wander off and google the answer themselves in half the time and come running back to tell me. My eldest even did a presentation in school on life in the Space Station, and watching the ISS lIvefeed in NASA TV became quite the family hobby for a while!
I remember thinking at the time that Commander Hadfield seemed like one of life’s good guys – I mean I guess they have to do some outreach/educational stuff on the ISS but he really did seem to put his heart into it and actually care about what he was doing. Taking the trouble to take and tweet a picture of Wales as the ISS passed over on St David’s Day, that sort of thing, goes beyond the effort you’ll see on most ‘celebrity’ twitter feeds. And it wasn’t just a one way process – helped by his son Evan, he regularly answered Facebook and Twitter questions, both mundane and technical, people like me and my kids. (Ours were of the mundane kind, obvs).
I’m sure all astronauts are aware of the fact that they undergo an experience way beyond the reach of most of us – but Commander Hadfield took the time to share that experience in a way that made people like me feel like they were playing a part in it, and, much more importantly, made kids everywhere understand that they COULD be a part of it, that cool space jobs aren’t just for boffins and celluloid Men in Black. And this of course carries the wider message – ‘if I can be a spaceman, I can be anything I want!’
When I heard that Commander Hadfield was coming to Cardiff to do a book signing, I asked my eldest kids if they would like to go along and meet him. What, a real, live astronaut? Didn’t take them long to think about it – YES PLEASE came the answer. So we duly went along, with a few hundred other people…and now, instead of ‘thinking’ that he’s one of life’s good guys, I am pleased to report that he most definitely IS. Despite the fact that he had signed about 300 books by the time we got to him and had a huge queue still to come, he was absolutely lovely to my kids. They both had questions they wanted to ask him but when it came to it they were so in awe that they were actually struck dumb – even so, he took the time to speak to both of them individually, showing my boy a picture of himself at the same age in the book, and making sure they both got a proper chance to shake his hand. What a gentleman!
My kids were so proud that they’d met ‘their’ astronaut, and the signed books have not left their sides yet. Which is kind of annoying as I didn’t buy myself one, it being the season of skintness, and I was sort of counting on being able to read one of theirs!!
No matter. They are still over the moon at meeting their hero, and I am over the moon for them that their hero did most definitely turn out to be one of life’s Good Guys. Thank you Commander Hadfield for making their day!
Ps my Good Guy assessment was in no way influenced by the fact that Commander Hadfield also told my daughter ‘You’re beautiful. Just like your Mum’ *swoons a little bit*