Hadfield’s previous spaceflight missions included STS-74, a shuttle Atlantis mission to the Russian Mir space station in November 1995, and STS-100, an Endeavour mission to the International Space Station to install the Canadarm2 robotic arm in April 2001. It was during the latter mission that he became the first Canadian to complete a spacewalk.
Then, on Dec. 19, 2012, he launched in the Russian Soyuz TMA-07M spacecraft to begin his long-duration stay as a part of Expedition 35 with NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn and cosmonaut Roman Romanenko. When he took command (after the Expedition 34 crew departed the station in March 2013), it was only the second time that neither a NASA astronaut nor Russian cosmonaut was in command of the ISS.
During his stay on the space station, Hadfield was responsible for the lives of five other crewmembers and helped to run dozens of scientific experiments; he also oversaw the berthing of the second SpaceX commercial cargo run.
Through his expert social media skills, he quickly amassed a huge number of followers. So, ending his mission on a high note, the talented astro-musician combined his passion for space with his passion for music and starred in the first professionally-crafted music video shot in space.
Taking on the roles of “Ground Control” and “Major Tom,” Hadfield sung the David Bowie classic “Space Oddity,” a video that will be forever cemented in spaceflight history. But why did he choose to do it?
“I was just trying to be a good dad!” Hadfield said with a laugh. “I mean really, at the start, my son was insistent. He was like ‘Dad, you have to do this, everyone wants you to do it!’ It was one of those ‘Right, OK, I’ll try to squeeze it in’ projects.”
Working with friends and fellow Canadians Emm Gryner, an award-winning musician, and Joe Corcoran, a music producer based in LA, Hadfield crafted the vocals. Then his son Evan urged him to record the now-famous music video.
“'Space Oddity' really (came about) because my son was insistent ... and he was right. The worldwide response was phenomenal and continues to be.”
By this point, Hadfield had reached a million followers on Twitter and had garnered a huge following on Reddit, Tumblr and Facebook (to name just a few social networks), but being in space meant that he wasn’t fully aware of how his popularity on the ground had skyrocketed.
“I wasn’t all that aware ... Once in a while I’d get a tweet from William Shatner or from another celebrity and that was kind of delightful,” he said. “It was like ‘Hey, other people are paying attention to what we are doing!’ but I think that that is the slice that people see, they thought that was the priority of what I was doing.”
Despite the huge social media following Hadfield still enjoys, it is still the tangible, everyday experiences that he holds most dear.
“The scope of the response is wonderful. It’s been really delightful for me. Everywhere that I go I am stopped by people that I’ve never met telling me that they’re proud of me. I don’t know of a bigger complement or privilege – no matter what awards you win or what people say for numbers, a parade of strangers stopping me to say how proud they are is a delightful position to be in.”
To find out more about Chris Hadfield's odyssey in space, his massively popular book "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything" is now available.