One person on (and off!) this planet that I really admire is the Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield. He was one of the commanders of the International Space Station where he made really cool youtube videos showing what life is like in zero gravity, shot tons of photos from space and posted them on twitter where they went viral with how insanely incredible they were, he has flown both the American Space Shuttle and the Russian Soyuz, and he even made a music video from space! Seriously, the guy is incredible. I recently found out that he’d be coming to town this past weekend and I rearranged my entire schedule to make sure I could go see how speak live. Not only was it incredible to see him speak in person, but even how everything played out to get to see him was fantastic…
So one of the things that made Chris Hadfield famous and got him in the public eye is that he picked up a camera and started posting onto Twitter photos of the earth from space. They were epically beautiful. You can check out some of them here.
He also started shooting short videos of everyday stuff that becomes incredible when it happens in space. Check out some of those videos here.
(Seriously, if you haven’t seen the photos or any videos, pause reading this blog and go check them out in those links above.)
Here’s a music video he shot from aboard the ISS.
He published a book called An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything which I pre-ordered and read as soon as it came out. It’s an incredible read about his take on life, what it takes to deal with risk and fear, about having a positive outlook on life, stories from his experiences, and just generally cool bits of wisdom that come from his life experience.
He recently released another book that featured his best photos that he shot from space, along with quick blurbs sharing what you’re seeing and why it’s so special, and hearing him share his take on life only makes you fall in love with our beautiful planet and with humanity that much more. He was in town this weekend for a book tour and book signing for this new book, titled You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes: Photographs from the International Space Station.
Chris Hadfield is coming to town? I’ll get a chance to meet him and see him speak in person? I GOTTA DO THIS!! He was going to be in Portland Friday and Seattle Saturday. However, I was going to be in Seattle Friday and Portland Saturday. haha, hmmm… Since this obviously wasn’t gonna work, I decided to take the train down early as I mentioned in my previous post so that I could make it in time for the Friday evening talk. Glenn was going to drive down later that evening when I was already down in Portland.
I get there into town about an hour and a half before the event starts (plenty of time) which turns out to be a great decision for a variety of reasons which I’ll get into in just a moment.
Since I get there was some extra time I had available, I grabbed a bite to eat and then went over to my hotel to drop off my bag. Well, unlike all the other places that we were staying in, there was some issues and the person that’s saying for our hotel trips form the company that flooded my home hadn’t actually paid for the room yet so I couldn’t actually go up. Unbeknownst to me, this turned out to be fantastically beneficial and again I’ll share why in just a bit. A little annoyed by this at the time but figuring that everything can have cool benefits, I decided to just head over to the event way early and grab a seat.
I get there about 45 minutes before, thinking the place would be pretty much empty, but it was PACKED! Seriously. There were chairs everywhere but at this point it was already standing room only. Pretty stunned I start making my way over to the other sid eof the room to find a place to stand when I see a seat in the very front row that doesn’t have a jacket or a book on it, holding its place. I walk up to the seat and ask the people sitting next to it, “I’m sure this is a ridiculous question being that this is the front row and there has to be someone sitting here, but I gotta ask. Is there anyone sitting her?” Turns out the answer was NO! OMG! SCOREEE! A few chairs down in the front row there was another seat available, lol…
If you’re ever at a jack packed event, go try out the front row. It may unexpectedly work out in your favor. 😉 😀
A friend of mine who initially told me about the event arrived shortly thereafter, about 20 minutes before it started, and sadly she wasn’t able to get in at all. By that point there was a huge line leading out the building and they’d stopped letting people in altogether. WOW… Keep in mind that this is at Powell’s, the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world, with something like 4 floors or something crazy. A bookstore!!
Because there were so many people, they were actually handing out tickets. The sooner you got there, the lower your ticket number, and the sooner you could get in line for the book signing. That way the people who got there sooner would be able to get their books signed earlier and benefit from having gotten there earlier.
While waiting for the talk to start, I chatted with the people next to me and we shared stories of watching rocket launches, stories we liked from Chris’ books, the unfolding of the space program, some of our favorite photos from space, and so on. Great people.
Periodically a guy would make an announcement about the tickets and make sure that people who’d entered recently had picked up a ticket as well.
Once it was finally time for everything to start, holy shit, there’s Chris!!
He’s actually more slender in person than I figured. You must have to be to be able to fit into the space suits.
If you’ve never watched any videos of him speaking, it’s absolutely worth doing. Not only is he downright hilarious, but he is incredibly inspiring with his take on life. His stories in training, what he experienced in space, all that stuff just makes you fall in love with life that much more.
He has a gift for taking something very ordinary and mundane and making it incredible, especially when you go to space. One example that comes to mind is what happens with your feet when you get up into space. He shared in one of his books about how on earth the bottoms of our feet are tougher from walking. They hold our entire body weight on top of them. In space it’s the opposite. The bottoms of your feet really don’t do much, but it’s actually the top of your feet that do the most work. You see in space one of the big goals is to stay in place and not float away, so what you do is you hook your feet behind these poles mounted on the walls so that you can stay put. What happens it that the tops of your feet which used to not do anything start to become kinda raw from suddenly being used so much and the bottoms of your feet start to actually get softer and almost atrophy a bit because they’re not doing so much work anymore.
That’s one of my favorite things… just hearing how different ordinary stuff is once you go up into space. Things like even walking and what happens to your feet. There’s an endless list of things like this that are different in zero G’s.
He shared a story about one of his spacewalks and how something like the way gravity impacts your tears can have a huge impact on your spacewalk.
See what normally happens when you’re on earth, when you get something in your eye, your eyes tear up and gravity pulls the tear down your cheek or down your tear ducts. Your eyes keep producing tears and your eye eventually gets flushed out. In space if you get something in your eye your eye tears up, but without gravity to pull the tears down, they stay in your eye and the tears just start to ball up into bigger and bigger globs of water on your eyeball.
This happened to him on one of his spacewalks while he was out working. He was out on an EVA (extra-vehicular activity, fancy name for spacewalk) when suddenly his left eye started to sting and naturally clamped shut. His eye started to tear up and he tried opening and closing his eye over and over to flush it out while he continued to work but nothing was helping. The eye kept tearing more and more and there wasn’t anything he could do. At first he instinctively brought his hand up to his eye to try and clean his eye out, but because he was on a spacewalk, his glove bonked off his facemask. He jokingly admitted that he was kinda embarrassed that that happened and was glad that no one was around to see that and we all started laughing.
Eventually the tear got so big that the glob of water actually crossed over the bridge of his nose and hit his other eye which also then clamped shut. Imagine that… with one hand you’re holding onto a spacecraft. The other hand stretches out into the blackness of infinity. You’re totally blind and you’ve got no way of fixing it yourself. What do you do?
He radio’ed down. “Houston, we’ve got a problem.” lol… Turns out that some of the solution that they use to keep their visors fog-free had gotten into his eye. From earth they suggested that he actually start venting air out of his spacesuit because the loss of air would actually start to dry out the solution and thus his eyes. He’d practice this technique many times on earth in case he needed to do this so he reached up to the side of his helmet, released the switch, and starting attempting to reoxygenate the universe. 😀
Eventually it started to work and one eye cleared up enough to where he was able to see again and continue working on the ISS.
Whew.. story after story and I could go on and on…
Actually, here’s a TED talk with him sharing about this story and what he learned:
After he spoke and shared a few stories, he opened things up for Q&A. Midway through the first question I decided to start recording the Q&A. I put the whole thing up on YouTube so you can watch too and listen in to the man. He’s a guy I could listen to talk for hours. It’s SOOO incredible…
Once he finished up with Q&A’s, it was time for the book signing. Since I had gotten there “only” (heh) 45 minutes before and the room was already jam packed by the time I got there, I was nowhere near the front of the line. However, one of the women next to me that I had been talking with at the very beginning said that she got a ticket when she got in but didn’t actually want to get a book signed and that I could have her ticket! OMG! Thank you!! That one kind little gesture probably saved me a good hour or so of waiting. Wow…
So I got to go right up in the very first batch of people to get a book signed. Honestly I didn’t want to get a book. I prefer having as little physical stuff as possible. His other book I bought as an eBook and loved always having it with me without having the physical book needed. Both ebooks and physical books have their pros and cons. Even though I had an opportunity to get a book signed, I didn’t actually want a book. I just wanted to meet him in person, extend to him my gratitude, share how much he’s touched my life, and simply get a picture with him.
One of the girls who worked there offered to take the picture. Normally I joke around and show people what button they need to press to take a picture with a phone, but she was pretty young too so I figured she’d know so there was no need. 😉
I got up and had a chance to meet him, shook his hand, thanked him immensely, and got a picture taken with him. Yayyy!! He was very grateful to hear how much his work and sharings had benefitted me too.
Giddy and overjoyed I started heading out of the bookstore. As I was heading out, I pulled out my phone to look at the picture and… wtf… Where is the picture? She didn’t take it! There was no picture!
I stood there a little shocked. What just happened? How did she not take it? Do I go back and get another picture? Do I share a funny story about how I got to see Chris Hadfield and took a picture with him but that I don’t actually have a picture with him? Do I need to go to the end of the line or is my ticket I still had still good? I decided that there was no way I could just walk away without getting an actual picture with him so I got back in line with others who were also there. I told them the story and we all started laughing, so we promised each other we’d take pictures for each other, and not just one picture but oodles of them just in case, to make SURE that it worked. So a girl took a bunch of pics for me and I took a bunch of pics for several other people standing nearby me in line. 😀
Needless to say, after getting a picture with him, I was monumentally thrilled, to the point where I was skipping down the road and giggling as how overjoyed I was to actually get to see and meet him in person.
When I finally got back to my hotel, everything was paid for and I was able to check on in. Only then did it dawn on me that what had just happened was even more incredible than I had initially realized.
You see, every other place that we’ve stayed at, the lady has been awesome about making sure everything was paid for before we got there, that way we could stay in our rooms. This time, even though we’d contacted her several times about it, mysteriously it didn’t happen this time. Now one of the perks that this hotel offered was free drinks. I was initially planning to drop off my stuff in my room before leaving to the book signing, grabbing a drink, and then heading over. I figured that I had plenty of extra time and it was all closeby. However, because I wasn’t able to check in, I didn’t lose time going to my room or grabbing a drink. Had I done this, I wouldn’t have been able to get in to see Chris at all! It would been too packed and they wouldn’t allow anyone else in. So not only was it beneficial to leave with WAY more time than I thought I needed (being punctual is a big deal for me and I’d rather be way too early than even a little bit late because something you really need it), but not having the room paid for in advance turned out to actually be incredibly beneficial in the end. Even though it seemed like something was “going wrong” at the time, it turns out that things were actually going very very right. 😉 😀
So I basically got to go to an event that filled up beyond capacity, I rolled in when it was standing room only and got a seat in the front row, I was surrounded by wonderful people in every direction, I got to see one of my heroes up close and in person, I got a free upgraded ticket to see him even earlier than I would have gotten to otherwise, and I got to give him not one hug but TWO when the picture didn’t work out the first time, lol… I mean what else can I say but THANK YOU!! Seriously, I’m just overflowing with gratitude for life and how COOL it really can be.
People are amazing. Chris is one shining example of how incredible people can be. Not only in following his passion and sharing it with the world, but living life full on, being an amazing human being, caring deeply about people and the world, and having such an eloquently beautiful way of sharing his perspective on life with others that really inspires them to open up and love that much more. It’s the very same thing I’m passionate about in life too, and seeing him be such a brilliant example of this only lights me more and more too.
Thank you so much Col. Hadfield. You’re amazing.