Chris Hadfield is one of the most inspiring people to ever inhabit the International Space Station. From his tweets and his outer-space singalong with school children, to his grand finale – a stirring and fitting rendition of David Bowie's Space Oddity – the Canadian commander has made the space station more relevant and accessible to people than it ever has been before.
Mr. Hadfield first got the world's attention when he began tweeting breathtaking photographs of Earth from the space station. His photos made him a star on Twitter, where he has more than 808,000 followers. He went on to reach out to the public in humorous and instructive videos about life in orbit, from getting a haircut to the strange magic that occurs when you wring out a wet cloth in a weightless environment.
A natural performer, Mr. Hadfield took his guitar into space with him and led children in song at the Ontario Science Centre. His musical bent culminated with a strikingly well produced music video for his adapted version of Space Oddity; the video is garnering praise around the world and bringing a final boost in public awareness to the space station program as Mr. Hadfield prepares to leave.
"What he's done … is extremely beneficial," Duane Ratliff, the chief operating officer of the Centre for the Advancement of Science in Space, told The Globe and Mail. The International Space Station needed Mr. Hadfield, because its future is in doubt – partly because of the discontinuation of the space shuttle program in the United States, but also because government and industry are more focused on applied research than on the pure research carried out on the station.
Mr. Hadfield, who was born in Sarnia, Ont., conducted his own, unscheduled, research project. He proved that humanity, humour and genuine warmth could reach Earth from the confines of a tin can "far above the world." By doing so, he brought humankind's exploration of space into people's lives in a personal way, and may have given the International Space Station new life. We wish him godspeed as he returns to Earth later today, his 146-day mission over.