Thank you, Commander

The Canadarm gives Earth a thumbs-up in one of the many photos tweeted from space by Chris Hadfield.It seems more than fitting to launch a blog about my other obsession, literary science fiction, with a big thank-you (one of millions, likely) to the latest human to have us all gazing up at the stars in wonder – then back down at ourselves.

I refer to my fellow Canadian, Chris Hadfield, who returns to Earth later today after his tour of duty as the first Canadian to command the International Space Station.

My desktop background updates are about to become less frequent, now that my Twitter stream will no longer include his regular photos of our amazing planet from orbit.

Be it his with orbital vistas, of which we never grew tired, his participation in educational activities or his engagement with the rest of us Terrans over YouTube, Hadfield has taken the popularisation of the International Space Station to a new level, and for that we must be grateful.

It would be unreasonable to expect Hadfield’s successor at the ISS helm, Pavel Vinogradov, to be as active over the media, social or otherwise. However, Hadfield has shown us that, in an era or diminishing science budgets and increasing disregard for pure science, it is vital to keep the public engaged about space if our civilization is ever to become a spacefaring one.

Science fiction nuts like myself might cite Hadfield’s conversation, from orbit, with William Shatner as a highlight of his mission. The chat was mainly trivial, but for this one realization: when Shatner first took on the role of Captain Kirk, the idea he would one day be talking about that role with the commander of an international space station, from Earth to orbit, would have been science fiction.

Thank you, Commander, for making space travellers of us all.