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NASA chief dishes dirt on Chris Hadfield

Oct. 3, 2014, Ottawa - The head of NASA startled an Ottawa audience Thursday when he announced out of the blue: “Chris Hadfield is infamous.”


October 3, 2014
By The Ottawa Citizen

Charles Bolden, as NASA’s administrator, is Hadfield’s former boss. And over lunch with the Canadian Club he started to improvise.

“My notes say he’s famous. Chris is not famous! Chris is infamous,” he said, drawing out the last word. “He has put pressure on everybody.”

“Chris has revolutionized the way that people look at astronauts on orbit and he has brought space flight home to normal people down here. He has made them feel like: I can do this. I’m involved in this. And that’s really, really, really special.”

Hadfield drew a huge global audience with Twitter and YouTube accounts and photos of how astronauts train, live in space, and see Earth from above. He sang, played the guitar, and did a student-designed experiment that involved squeezing out a wet washcloth in zero-gravity.

Bolden met a couple of Canadian astronauts in Toronto this week who “made it very clear they didn’t appreciate the pressure Chris has put on them. They said, ‘We’ve got to learn how to sing, we’ve got to do all kinds of stuff.’”

It was a lighthearted moment in a mostly serious look at the U.S. and Canadian space programs, with Bolden’s message being that in the long run they’re in good shape.

NASA has struggled recently. Its shuttle program is finished, and the Constellation program that was supposed to replace it, flying crews to the moon and Mars, was cancelled.

The only way for NASA astronauts to get to the International Space Station is aboard a Soyuz, and Russia charges $71 million per ride. Tensions have run high, with a senior Russian tweeting recently that NASA’s best chance of reaching orbit is by getting a trampoline.

But Bolden said there are plenty of good signs. One unmanned mission will reach Pluto next year and another will reach Jupiter a year later. Crew launches from U.S. soil should resume in 2017, using commercial aerospace companies — “a huge milestone for us.”

There are plans to grab an asteroid and tow it back to orbit the moon where NASA can explore it at leisure.

And he praised Canadian technology such as Dextre, the “robotic handyman” on the outside of the space station.

“Investment in space is not just a nice-to-have thing; it improves life on Earth, stimulates economies, and also provides that intangible inspiration” for younger people.

He repeated several times that space planning today “is not about us” who are adults today, but about the future.

“I have three grandchildren aged eight, 12 and 14, and I’m going to be really upset if we screw it up,” he said. “It’s about them.”