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Hadfield shares space insights with Hawking

Dec. 20, 2013, London, U.K. - He has flown jet fighters, travelled on the space shuttle and commanded the International Space Station. But nothing seemed to intimidate Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield quite as much as standing next to renowned physicist Stephen Hawking.


December 20, 2013
By The Globe and Mail

“Let me just say how scared I am,” Mr. Hadfield told a crowd of 300
people at the Canadian High Commission Thursday evening where he gave a
speech and fielded a couple of questions from Mr. Hawking. “I hope the
question includes part of the answer.”

Mr. Hawking, who has devoted much of his research to the study of the
cosmos, is a keen devotee of space travel and he has spoken about his
interest in flying into space one day. On Thursday he asked Mr. Hadfield
about the long-terms effects of weightlessness on trip to Mars and
whether the Canadian believed the solar system would ever be colonized.

Mr. Hadfield gave a long answer to the Mars question, saying that if
the trip could be done in a month the effects could be managed. However,
based on current technology it would take about six months to get there
which would have a significant impact on the body and mind. The biggest
challenge, he added, would be coping with the isolation. “How do you
keep your crew from going crazy?” he asked. “Within a month or so you
won’t be able to have a real-time conversation ever again with Earth,
the delay [on a call] will be so long…So that crew within weeks will
become Martians psychologically, they will no longer be of Earth.”

 

As
for colonization, Mr. Hadfield, 54, said he believes the solar system
will be colonized one day but only when there is a real need to do it.
And he is convinced there will be some form of colonization of the Moon
within his lifetime.

 

With Mr. Hawking looking on, Mr. Hadfield
also sang David Bowie’s Space Oddity, which he famously sung during his
stint on the space station. And he took other questions from the
audience, including what happens when someone sneezes in space? Not
much, was the answer.

 

In an interview afterward, Mr. Hadfield, who
has retired from the Canadian Space Agency, said Canada continues to
play an important role in space research. “Canada is involved right
across the board,” he said. “China just landed on the moon. India just
went to Mars so there is huge opportunity for Canada.”

 

And he said
young people are still showing a keen interest in science, math and
space travel. “They are optimistic. They want to do things,” he said.
“We are one of the leading countries in the world in science and math.
We do a wonderful job. We can do it better, sure. We sure could do it a
lot worse.”

 

It was clear that meeting Mr. Hawking, 71, had an
impact on Mr. Hadfield. The two took a picture together and Mr. Hadfield
said he was honoured to meet the physicist.

 

Later as Mr. Hadfield
signed copies of his book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Mr.
Hawking posed for pictures and answered a few questions with the help of
his long-time assistant, Judith Croasdell.

 

Ms. Croasdell said Mr.
Hawking had followed Mr. Hadfield’s journey on the space station and
was eager to meet him. “We actually reject an awful lot of invitations
but this was one he wanted to do,” she said adding that Mr. Hawking
continues to do research work at Cambridge University where he heads of
the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology. “He did enjoy it. I’m driving him
home tonight so we’ll hear all about it.”