Tag Archives: Science outreach

Question for Commander Chris Hadfield

Sitting at the table in the Netherlands talking to Chris Hadfield on Radio 5 live.

Sitting at the table in the Netherlands talking to Chris Hadfield on Radio 5 live.

I’m writing this while sitting listening to BBC Radio 5 live and preparing for my five minutes of overwhelming excitement that will happen in about 20 minutes. The producers of the Victoria Derbyshire show will call me at 10:30 and I’ll have the opportunity to ask my absolute most favourite person on the whole planet a question. Just one question. What on earth am I going to say?

What I love most about Chris Hadfield is how well he communicates with people, and what an exceptional role model he is to everyone back on earth. I know he’s answered so many questions already (check out his three reddit AMAs before, during and after his time on the international space station) and so I spent all of last night trying to come up with an interesting question that might not already have been considered.

Here’s what I came up with:

My name is Kirstie Whitaker, I’m a researcher at the University of Cambridge and I study brain development. I’m really passionate about encouraging the next generation of scientists to join STEM careers, and I don’t know of anyone who has fulfilled that mission better than you [Commander Hadfield]. If anyone hasn’t watched the experiment of what happens when you wring out a wet towel in space, you really have to google it now! (I think I watch it almost every week when I need to be reminded of the magic of what human beings have achieved!)

My question is: You receive so much training as part of the Canadian Armed Forces, CSA and NASA for all the challenges of living in space. Did anyone give you any advice on how to deal with becoming a celebrity? Did anyone predict that you were going to be such a hit? And how did your family react to your fame?

I has so many follow up questions that were related to this idea: Do you think there is additional pressure on future astronauts to fill your boots? Is there a responsibility for “federal employees” to communicate what they’re doing to the taxpayers? Did the ability to interact with millions of people come naturally or is it something you worked to improve?

There were a few off topic questions that my friends brought up too: Do your vocal cords work differently in space? Did you save off your mustache now that movember is over? Is your son single?

It’s somewhat silly to be so excited about being able to talk to your hero, but I’m running with it. I thought his answer to my question was wonderful, as were his responses to all the other questions. He talked about the psychological support that NASA provides, and how it stands in contrast to the very little support that the early astronauts received. He thanked his son for spreading his tweets to other social media forums, and pointed out that social media is just that: social. It was through these interactions with everyone down on Earth that he created such a wonderful feeling of community.

You can listen to the interview here.

Let me know what you think.

What would you have asked?

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