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Friday Favorite – Space Man

Last Friday I had the opportunity to tour the River Building at Carleton University in Ottawa, which houses the Journalism and Communication school. It’s an incredible facility, with state-of-the-art classrooms, editing suites and broadcast studios –– things we quite frankly couldn’t have imagined when I did my Masters in Journalism at Western University in the early eighties.

There is also a sense of history, preserved and celebrated in the Reader’s Digest Resource Centre, where rows of shelves house hard-copy books, newspapers, academic papers, and other resources. The walls in the Resource Centre’s lounge proudly display the front pages of newspapers that recorded some of the most significant dates in history.

As I stood next to one of the leather club chairs, I found myself fixated on a front page from July 1969, and the coverage of the first moon walk. The image was black and white, and grainy… the paper yellowed… the type, before the days of computers, less precise than we expect now. For its time, it was remarkable indeed that a photograph could be taken on the moon, then appear in a newspaper the next day. I remember that time in history. I was nine, and it was amazing. Astonishing. Mind blowing.

But that wasn’t what I was thinking of as I stared at the image. Instead, I was thinking of the incredible space adventure so many of us have been living in recent months, thanks partly to advances in technology and the world of social media, but mainly to the man who so generously invited the world into his International Space Station home and took the time to share with us its wonders.

Which leads me to this Friday’s Favorite –– the Canadian space man who came back to Earth this week. And this Friday’s post –– my personal thank you to Commander and Canadian Chris Hadfield:

Commander Chris… I suspect that by now you have some sense of the impact you have had on so many of us over the past five months. I certainly hope you do.

You first caught me with a stunning image of my home province of Newfoundland. I stared at it for the longest time, somehow surprised that it looked exactly as it did on the map, but so much more amazing. From that moment on I knew that I all I had to do was check my Facebook or Twitter, and there would be yet another breathtaking image from some other equally perfect location.

I would look at your pictures from above and marvel at how tiny we all really are… the humans that inhabit this planet. Totally and completely invisible… as if we aren’t even here at all. I would marvel at the impossibility of it all, the unlikeliness of us, and be lost in the kind of wonder we usually leave behind with childhood.

I waved at you from time to time, on those mornings when I was getting ready for work and you tweeted that you were about to pass over my home in Southern Ontario. Looked out the window, my husband smiling next to me, and said “Good morning, Commander Chris!”

But it wasn’t just the photos that meant so much. It was the elastic breaking in your pajama pants (with no embarrassing results thanks to zero gravity). It was the cooking show and the floating spoon. It was the tear demonstration in answer to an Earthbound student’s question. It was the record-breaking number of science experiments, and the everyday repairs and plumbing. It was the guitar pick that matched your mission patch. And the music… the beautiful, breathtaking music.

You are an astronaut, for crying out loud, an almost mythical being with powers far and above most ordinary people. But you were so human, so real, so humble, and so willing to share.

We even got to know some of your family, at least a little –– the son who apologized to the world for something that needed no apology, then later on the same day allowed us all to stand witness as he welcomed you home the moment you landed. I don’t know if you could sense it or not, squeezed into the Soyuz capsule and battered by gravity as you were, but there were countless other voices echoing his at that exact moment.

Welcome home, Commander Chris. Thank you for allowing us to circle the planet with you. Thank you for already sharing with us what it will take for you to readjust to life on this planet… so we can understand all that you must endure as you regain your bone density, your balance, and your life on Earth. And thank you for still posting a new picture every day so we don’t forget.

You inspired us for the past five months. You inspire us today. And you will inspire us for a very very long time to come. 

(Photo: NASA public use images)