The International Gazette Philadelphia, PA May/June 2015
Renowned Space Traveler Makes his First Stop to Philadelphia
By David Block
Chris Hadfield orbited earth 2,597 times.
He was the first Canadian to walk in space. His extensive travels on earth and off allowed him to see most of the world and outer space. Despite his extensive travels, one place he always bypassed was Philadelphia – until this past April 19. “I’ve never been here in my life,” said Hadfield, 54. He hit the City of Brotherly Love to give a talk at the Philadelphia Free Library at 19th and Vine Streets. Admission was free. About 350 spectators were on hand to hear him relive his space adventures in the library’s Montgomery Auditorium. The audience enjoyed his life experiences in space. What he did not share with them were some little-known tidbits he revealed in a pre-speech interview.
He explained that in space, urine and sweat get recycled and become pure drinking water.
“When you urinate, it goes into someone’s sewage treatment system,” said Hadfield. “We have a mechanical system that purifies our water. Hopefully through evaporation and infiltration … all the nastiness gets out of it and it becomes pure water.” He wrote in his autobiography, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, how he and the other astronauts can do that. “Proper etiquette on the ISS (International Space Station) is to have a towel tucked into your clothes or floating beside you while you work out, to soak up your sweat. Later, you hang the towel on a clip so the moisture is absorbed back into the air and, along with urine, can be recycled as water,” Hadfield said. “An onboard purification system helps us reclaim about 1,600 gallons a year,” Hadfield explained. “Using filters and a distiller that spins to create artificial gravity and move waste water along, we’re able to turn sweat, water we’ve washed with and even our own pee into drinking water. “That may sound disgusting (and I’ll admit that I didn’t like to dwell on the pee part while enjoying a tall, cold pouch of water) but the water on Station is actually more pure than the stuff that comes out of the tap in most North American homes. And it tastes exactly like… water.”
Hadfield has had his share of problems in space. “Oil and soap leaked into my helmet,” said Hadfield, who added that that left him blind for 30 minutes. While learning to be a jet fighter, a bee flew into his visor. It was between the plastic and his eye. He was more worried about hitting another plane than about the bee because that would have meant death. “A bee sting [in my eye] wouldn’t have killed me.” When he had a chance to move his plane out of formation, he took off the visor and shooed the bee away. “It was one of those moments where I really had to stay under control,” said Hadfield. These are just a few of Hadfield’s challenges that he shared in the pre-speech interview. Challenges were nothing new to Hadfield.
The Boyhood Dream
The 9-year-old Hadfield wanted to be an astronaut when he saw Neil Armstrong land on the moon, July 20, 1969 on a neighbor’s small black and white TV set. “That dream wasn’t unrealistic, it was impossible,” said Hadfield
According to Hadfield, Canada did not have a space program in 1969. Hadfield’s surroundings made his dream seem more ridiculous. Hadfield lived on his family’s corn farm in Milton,
Ontario, Canada. According to travelmath.com, the driving distance from Milton to one of its nearest big cities, Toronto, is about 35 miles. Hadfield said that not everyone in Milton owned televisions when he was growing up. That idea was unfathomable. Despite his rural and modest surroundings, Armstrong’s walk on the moon, coupled with watching Star Trek on a neighbor’s set, and seeing life completely different from his family farm compelled him to think about life off the farm, the universe, and outer space. That made his boyhood dream
unquenchable. Hadfield thought he could live out his dream, first by learning to fly. The
Canadian Space Agency (CSA) documented that Hadfield joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1978 where he underwent basic flight training in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, Canada, for which he was named top pilot in 1980.
According to CSA, in 1992, their organization chose Hadfield along with three other Canadian astronauts, out of a pool 5300, to be assigned to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. That led to his space travels. When Hadfield finished answering questions, he turned his attention to autographing both of his books: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (2013) and You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes: Photographs from the International Space Station (2014). The library was supposed to have closed at 5 p.m., but the staff kept it opened for an additional half hour so that all the people in the long autograph line could meet Hadfield and to get his autograph.