Air cadets have an out-of-this-world experience

Local air cadets chat with astronaut Hadfield in space

Published on January 14, 2013
Royal Canadian Air Cadet Maomao Zhang speaks into a microphone to communicate by radio with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is currently at the International Space Station. Holding the mike for Maomao is primary radio operator Keith Perry. — Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Telegram

“N, A, 1, sugar sugar, this is Victor, Oscar, 1, V, Z, N. Do you copy Chris?”

Primary radio operator Keith Perry initially heard waves of static after sending out that message from the Admiralty House Communications Museum in Mount Pearl Saturday morning. A Royal Canadian Air Cadet stood beside him.

A few more attempts were made before a response was finally received.

“Go ahead,” came the voice of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is on a five-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

Hadfield, who was an air cadet in his youth, took time Saturday to answer questions from a group of air cadets with the Newfoundland Cadet Detachment.

Dylan Thomson, a member of Royal Canadian Air Cadets 515 North Atlantic, was the first youth to ask a question.

“If you could explore any part of the solar system, where would it be?”

“I’d choose Mars,” responded Hadfield. “Mars has an atmosphere. Mars has water. Mars is a place we could live. Mars is not too much more harsh than the worst parts of the world, so I think it’s our logical next step, and that’s where I would like to live if I had the choice.”

With the ball rolling, other cadets stepped forward to ask questions over the course of 10 minutes.

Flight Cpl. Evan Lane of Torbay asked Hadfield what it was like to be the first Canadian to walk in space.

“Evan, it was spectacular,” said the astronaut, who was formerly a fighter pilot with the Canadian Armed Forces. “Not only as the first Canadian, but as the first time for me, and it was a magnificent personal and professional experience to be alone in between the world and the universe. It was better than any flying I’ve ever done, and I really enjoyed flying.”

Speaking with The Telegram afterwards, the 15-year-old said he was excited about the opportunity to speak with Hadfield.

“Nobody gets the opportunity to talk with somebody out in space,” said Evan. “It’s just a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

If the opportunity were to present itself, Evan said, he would love to travel to space.

Saturday’s event was arranged through the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program, which encourages youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math through amateur radio communications opportunities.

Everett Price, a board member with the Admiralty House Communications Museum who also manages its radio station, said he was approached in October of last year by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) about whether there would be interest in having local air cadets chat with Hadfield.

“It’s not an individual effort by any means — it’s a group effort,” said Price. “A tremendous amount of time and money was put into this, and it worked.”

In preparation for Saturday’s communication with space, a group of scanning antennas were installed on the roof of the building, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston also insisted that the site be equipped with backup antennas.

While the recent snowstorm initially scared those involved with the technical side of the event, Price said they were relieved to find the antennas had not been damaged.

Price added that NASA has asked if the site in Mount Pearl would consider serving as a ground station for the International Space Station. He said the board will make a decision at a later date.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

@Cmdr_Hadfield is a busy guy on Twitter, too. Follow some of his activity here.