Chris Hadfield (pictured) is set to blast off into space aboard a Soyez rocket at a cosmodrome located in a remote part of Kazakhstan on Dec. 19 (he’s currently in quarantine there). The veteran of two previous Space Shuttle missions in 1995 and 2001, Hadfield holds the distinction of being the first Canadian astronaut to ever walk in space. Once he’s aboard the International Space Station he’ll be the first Canadian to assume command. That will happen during the second half of his stay, which is scheduled to last until May. In that capacity, he’ll lead a crew of three Russians and two Americans. 

After Hadfield’s second trip into space in 2001, I remember, the powers that be sent him on a cross-Canada to tour. I covered his appearance at the Saskatchewan Science Centre for prairie dog. I don’t recall the exact date, but it was late fall — I remember, because 9-11 had happened a month or so earlier. 

When reporters scrummed Hadfield after a public appearance on one of those stages where Science Centre staff do experiments like make your hair stand on end with a Van de Graf machine and freeze stuff with liquid nitrogen, I asked him for his thoughts on the tragedy from the perspective of someone who’d been up in space and had the opportunity to appreciate how precious our planet was in what was otherwise a pretty hostile universe. 

I don’t have a record of what Hadfield’s reply was, but it was an eloquent one. 

When the official part of the program was going on, I was standing up on the second level. There was a fair number of people there, so the ground floor was pretty crowded. My view of the stage was obstructed, but as part of the introduction hoopla the Science Centre had apparently arranged for indoor fireworks to go off. 

Unfortunately, no one thought to inform Hadfield, so when he bounded on stage these pretty loud explosions went off and startled the living shit out of him. A few days later, when I was visiting a friend to have a few wobbly pops and whatnot, I recounted the anecdote to him and we totally LOFAO. 

That’s my Chris Hadfield story. Hope he has a safe journey and that we continue to advance into space in the spirit of adventure and co-operation.