Yesterday, JJ Curling Elementary students lived the dream of so many across the nation when they had the chance to chat with an astronaut.
After winning an international contest (by a significant margin) with this hilarious photo, kids at the Curling-area school were given a once in a lifetime opportunity: to ask questions of Commander Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency.
This was a much-coveted experience considering the immense fame Commander Hadfield has come to know after becoming an international social-networking sensation on Twitter and Facebook, garnering millions of followers and ‘likes’ as people tuned in to his regular updates of life on the International Space Station, which he commanded for almost 6 months.
It is important to note, though, that the winning photo was submitted in September, before Commander Hadfield’s notoriety grew to the heights it is now. Teacher Brian Lowe said he was just doing research for the school’s Space Camp trip and decided to submit the photo for fun. It apparently shot ahead with votes and kept the lead throughout the contest’s duration until it finished up in May, right around when Commander Hadfield returned to earth from his stint on the ISS. By this time Hadfield had collaborated with the Barenaked Ladies, covered David Bowie’s Space Oddity, and been publicly endorsed by such space-oriented celebrities as George Takei and William Shatner.
And yesterday, some young Corner Brookers were able to meet this inter-stellar rock star.
They certainly knew it, too!
Before everything began, Commander Hadfield briefly called the school for a test run. He said a quick hello from Houston to make sure everything was ok. After hanging up the call, Principal Brian Higdon asked “Who was that?”. “CHRIS HADFIELD” the gym-full of students replied, without missing a beat.
When Commander Hadfield finally came on for his video-conference, all of the students were incredibly quiet and attentive. Everyone in the gym sang along to teacher Greg House’s guitar accompaniment, covering Hadfield’s original song ‘Is Someone Singing’ which was written along with the Barenaked Ladies. We then moved on to question time, and each answer was given with a special passion and inspiring verve that will certainly make a lasting impression on the curious students.
Commander Hadfield related anecdotes about his food, space walking, and moustache. Each answer was given very special time and attention, loaded with useful information, and never sugar coated. He spoke about stories about personal grooming as well as the perils of space, including one time he and his crew were completely out of contact with earth. Between the dashes of silliness and seriousness, though, came a very clear message to the students: Never lose sight of your dreams, and follow them wherever they may lead you.
“Pioneering is a state of mind…” He said at one point.
At the end of his time with us, Commander Hadfield made reference to the fact that so many across Canada have contacted him and asked him to speak. He also said goodbye, and that he looks forward to meeting everyone in person… if I were to read anything into those farewells, I’d say that after retiring from the CSA in a few months he will be traveling the country, and perhaps end up in Corner Brook in person!
So now we have that to look forward to as well.
An amazing experience to be a part of, and super exciting for the Grade 6s involved! Huge kudos to all the students and teachers who helped make this happen.
Ryan David Butt once wanted to be an archaeologist, and may very well pursue that path after yesterday’s inspiring events. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments, questions or concerns!