Chris Hadfield is living my dream.
He’s gearing up to become the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station for a six-month mission starting in 2012.
It’s not exactly Star Trek, since he’s hardly going where no man has gone before. Actually, he will just circle the Earth every 90 minutes for six months, but I’ll bet you never get tired of the view. From one window, you can see Africa. From the other: Infinity and beyond.
OK, so it’s not exactly interstellar travel at the warp speed, but it is the real thing, the edge of the human frontier in the year 2012. While it may be humble, it’s the first permanent settlement outside the planet.
He will be hitching a ride on a Russian Soyuz rocket in December 2012, because the U.S. government is ending the space shuttle program, and private industry that is racing to take over is still in the test rocket stages. But that’s cool; Russian rockets still work. And it’s also ironic: While the Russians are schlepping Hadfield to the space station, here on Earth, Hadfield’s prime minister, scaremonger-in-chief Stephen Harper, is trying to whip up a paranoia about a Russian attack from across the Bering Strait so he can justify spending $20 billion on fighter jets.
No wonder I feel more at home on the cosmic range. There’s no intelligent life down here.
Hadfield, like me, dreamed of space travel when he was a teenager. Unlike me, he could handle math and physics; instead, I learned to push words around. Dave, his more down-to-earth brother, put it well in a recent interview: “As you go through life there are forks in the road and he always took the one that could possibly lead into space.”
So he’s rocketing to the stars and I’m still here, writing about it.
No doubt nine out of 10 red-blooded Canadian boys are dreaming of becoming Sidney Crosby and making $10 million a year in the NHL, but there must be a few who want to be just like Chris Hadfield, who started in air cadets, flew CF18s and has logged two other space journeys.
And if the boys don’t have their heads in the stars, there are millions of young Canadian women who can look up to Hadfield, fellow Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk, and Canada’s First Lady of space, Julie Payette.
It’s just possible that because of these 21st-century pioneers, a few more Canadian kids will set their sights on the final frontier and pursue science degrees instead of becoming doctors of social media, majoring in Twitter.
Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting;