It took less than two months after the beloved astronaut Chris Hadfield’s return from space for Earth to prove once again that it’s not worth coming back to.
In an article in this month’s issue of Blacklock’s Reporter – an Ottawa-based, subscription-only news service apparently run by a group of uppity hobbits – there is a Woodward-and-Bernstein-style exposé on how Mr. Hadfield allegedly had a team of PR experts running the social-media campaign that shot the Canadian astronaut to international fame.
Managing editor Tom Korski wrote the piece, which was founded on internal documents from the Canadian Space Agency. The material showed that Mr. Hadfield’s “seemingly spontaneous performances in space were the product of a three-year marketing campaign complete with CBC collaboration and occasional tweets ghostwritten by government employees.”
Yes, because God forbid someone have a plan in a zero-gravity environment.
Mr. Hadfield’s son, Evan (who acts as a spokesman for his father), denied the report, dismissing it as cow dung. In a blog post, he argued that Mr. Hadfield’s earthly collaborations were logistical, not cunning. The post was appropriately titled “Tall Poppy Syndrome” – in this case, the poppy had got so tall that he had gone all the way to space.
It’s difficult to pick a side. On one hand, Blacklock’s Reporter touts itself as the purveyor of “news you won’t find anywhere else: bills and regulations; reports and committees; Federal Court and public accounts.” It even has 447 followers on Twitter, so it must know what it’s doing.
On the other hand, there’s Chris Hadfield, whose résumé is that he went to space and returned alive. Ground control to major yawn!
It’s probably fair to give the benefit of the doubt to the person who has the brains to operate a 1,800-kilogram robot arm over the person who is really good at Blogspot. But let’s just presume for a minute that Mr. Korski has his facts straight and that Mr. Hadfield was an imaginatively rendered puppet created by the known geniuses over in the CBC marketing department. Does it matter?
If Blacklock’s Reporter had done an investigative piece that revealed that Mr. Hadfield was doing bad science in space, or selling his old spacesuits on eBay for quick cash, or using the Canadarm2 to give Earth the finger, then presumably we’d all endorse the idea of a journalistic body calling him out for his misuse of government resources.
But Chris Hadfield is a scientist. He does actual science – science I cannot explain, but science that at one point, after many iterations and conversions, may help us reduce our dependency on fossil fuels or cure a terrible disease or at least turn a broken toilet into a bunch of diamonds. We need him. (Quick, give him your toilets!)
What’s more, over the course of 146 days, Mr. Hadfield managed to reconnect common people with the front line of scientific discovery. He was genial and charismatic while doing so, and threw in the odd musical flourish to make the near-unfathomable ideas of geographical limitlessness and our own insignificance go down easier. Without good public-relations campaigns, science will lose, and we will be stuck with bloggers nitpicking about whether the dust from the Berlin Wall falling down caused asthma.
That nice astronaut was trying to help us Earth idiots. What’s next for Blacklock’s Reporter, a smear piece on how JFK didn’t cut his own hair?
A reasonable thing to do after a man has spent five months in oblivion while sending sensitive, perspective-making dispatches on unity and existence, and then hurtled through the atmosphere in a metal doughnut hole at 28,000 kilometres per hour and landed back on Earth in one piece might be to sit back and allow ourselves to be awed by it.
Or, yes, I suppose instead you could dig around to write a crummy little story about whether or not it was his own idea to sing a song with a bunch of little kids who probably all had their minds collectively blown and just maybe will turn out to be better adults as a result of having come in contact with Chris Hadfield.
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