Andrew and Taylor Hadfield’s Uncle Chris is out of this world.
Chris Hadfield, 53, is living in outer space on board the International Space Station (ISS). He landed on the artificial satellite Dec. 21 and will be there until May. In March, Hadfield will take over as the first Canadian commander of the station.
His career has been full of firsts, but to Hadfield’s nephews in Paradise he is simply Uncle Chris and is just an email, tweet, or phone call away.
“He gives his time up for you,” Andrew, 12, says.
Taylor, 14, adds, “He’s a really great uncle.”
Their mom, Teresa, originally from Whitbourne, agrees.
She has been tweeting and emailing her brother-in-law while he’s in space.
“It’s all about the kids with him,” she says.
“He wants them to know kids can do whatever they dream of doing.”
Hadfield’s brother Phillip adds, “With Chris, the sky’s never the limit.”
Phillip, a pilot for Air Canada, grew up with Chris Hadfield in Ontario. Flying runs in their family. Their father was a pilot and so is their eldest brother, Dave.
Phillip’s sons aren’t quite so sure if flying is in their future. Taylor, who goes to Holy Spirit High, is interested in studying engineering at Memorial University, and Andrew, a student at Villanova Junior High School, is thinking about being a doctor.
But both boys love keeping in touch with their uncle while he orbits around Earth 16 times a day.
“His photographs of different places are so cool,” Andrew raves. “I looked at the photo of Egypt but I couldn’t see the pyramids.”
On Jan. 2, Hadfield posted a photo of
St. John’s taken from space on his Twitter account.
“St. John’s, NF — catching some winter sun through the cloud,” the astronaut wrote.
Phillip says his brother loves coming to
St. John’s to visit.
“We call him Newfoundland’s astronaut,” Teresa says with a laugh. “He’s had his moose dinner. He was Screeched-in long ago.”
Hadfield has even visited his nephews’ former school, Holy Family School in Paradise, twice.
“He did a presentation at the school the second time,” Teresa remembers. “He lifted Andrew up and demonstrated weightlessness. Andrew was only about 40 pounds at the time!”
Andrew recently led a presentation on space of his own at school, answering questions from fellow students. “I do find space really interesting,” he says.
He’s proud of his uncle’s role as the first Canadian commander of the space station.
“I think it’s a really big achievement,” Andrew says. “There can only be one first, and it’s our uncle, which is really cool.”
The accomplishment hasn’t gone to Hadfield’s head. He loves music and has even brought a guitar up to space with him.
“He’s very humble, very modest. He’s naturally positive,” Phillip says. “Chris says it’s like being a superintendent of an apartment building.”
Their Uncle Chris might be up in the stars for now, but his feet — and his heart — are planted firmly on ground with his family.
They plan to see him next summer, after Hadfield gets back and is acclimatized and debriefed at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
“He’s doing a lot of experiments up there. He’s very busy and will have a lot to do when he gets back,” says Phillip.
As for a family vacation as space tourists one day, the Hadfields aren’t quite so sure.
“Hopefully, we’d get a family discount,” Andrew says.