Chris Hadfield

December 4, 2013

I am Col. Chris Hadfield, retired astronaut.

I am Commander Chris Hadfield, recently back from 5 months on the Space Station.

Since landing in Kazakhstan I've been in Russia, across the US and Canada doing medical tests, debriefing, meeting people, talking about spaceflight, and signing books (I'm the author of a new book called "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth").

Life after 3 spaceflights and 21 years in the Astronaut Corps is turning out to be busy and interesting. I hope to share it with you as best I can.

So, reddit. Ask me anything!

(If I'm unable to get to your question, please check my previous AMAs to see if it was answered there. Here are the links to my from-orbit and preflight AMAs.)

Thanks everyone for the questions! I have an early morning tomorrow, so need to sign off. I'll come back and answer questions the next time a get a few minutes quiet on-line. Goodnight from Toronto!

Thank you for doing another AMA Cmdr. Hadfield and welcome back!!! What are your chances of going back to the ISS in the future and would you return if given the opportunity? Would you ever want to volunteer to take the one way trip to Mars? Edit: *to

You're welcome. I retired form the Cdn Space Agency, so my chances of another ISS voyage are virtually nil, bit I would gladly go back. One-way to Mars - maybe, depending who was with me.

Hello Commander Hadfield!

I’ve had a passion for space and rockets for about as long as I can remember. So much so, that I’m now studying mechanical engineering at a University you only recently visited, and will soon teach at. You’re an inspiration to me and my future efforts as I hope to enter the aerospace industry. All of my friends have been talking about how they have met you before or have seen you and I always get jealous. I hope I get to meet you someday :)

My question is, what steps can I take as a student to engage myself in the aerospace industry and ultimately end up working in that field? Also, as a personal side request (which would be totally awesome for me), can I have an internet high five?

Proud to have you as a fellow Waterloo Warrior, sir. Thanks again for everything you’ve done.

First key step is success in your studies. That will open doors more than anything else at this phase.

Here's 5, way up high.

Hello Chris! I just want to start off saying that you are truly one of my hero’s for so many reasons, but especially because I want to get into the space business in any way that I can, and I’m so glad that I have someone incredible like you to look up to. So thank you for that. I have some questions for you; What is your favourite thing about being an astronaut? And also, what was the the most difficult thing that you had to overcome in the process of becoming an astronaut?

Favourite thing - the people. Choose a career that surrounds you with people who have skills you do not. You'll get better just by being there, learning by osmosis.

Most difficult thing - remembering ALL the details taught over many years, to have them at front of brain on ISS when needed.

Hi Col. Hadfield,

I met you last week at your book signing in Montreal and it was one of the highlights of my year, along with seeing you speak on Canada Day in Ottawa (which I happened upon by complete chance.) You are a true Canadian hero and an inspiration to people everywhere; you’ve single-handedly gotten countless more people interested in space exploration.

I’ve only just begun your book – I’m on Chapter 3 – and the amount of things I’ve learnt about you already is staggering. I will refrain from asking any questions about you personally for the time being as they may already be answered in the book.

My only question is whether or not you would consider allowing me the honour of treating you to dinner the next time you are in Montreal? I figured I’d ask even though I doubt it’ll ever happen, but like you said in reference to playing on stage with Elton John: “Just in case.”

Thanks for the invitation! Never hurts to ask. If I have time and hunger at Montreal dinnertime, I'll send you a note :)

What advice would you give a 13-year-old who wishes to become an astronaut in the future?

3 things: 1 - keep your body in shape. You get strong at the gym and thin in the kitchen 2 - get an advanced technical education, one that challenges you, at least a Master's degree 3 - make decisions, and stick to them. It's a skill that gets better with practice.

Two questions:

1) How much damage did you body have when you came back to earth? Could you walk, did you find yourself nauseous, etc.

2) Where do you see manned spaceflight going in the future? Do you think we could ever have a moon base, or a mars base, or even make it out of the solar system.

Thanks, and I want to thank you and your mustache for being so awesome.

Right at landing I felt dizzy, heavy, and then nauseous. After working out 2 hrs/day on ISS I was plenty strong, just disoriented. The inner ear takes time to recalibrate, as does blood pressure. Within 12 hours I could walk fine, though with a bit of staggering.

I see human spaceflight moving ever-outward from Earth. The logical sequence is Earth orbit, the Moon, asteroids, Mars. We have so much to learn/invent at each step, and there's no rush. It needs to be both driven and paced by technology, and drawn by science, discovery and then business.

Hi Commander Hadfield! I'm curious to know, is it possible for someone to get stuck floating in the middle of a room in the ISS? As in they're floating and the walls are out of reach.


Edit: Thanks for the gold!

Yes, it is - you can get stuck floating in the center of Node 1, where open space is biggest due to hatches on all sides. But ISS has fans and forced air to mix and refresh the internal atmosphere, so there's always a small crosswind. Wait long enough, you'll get pulled to an air inlet.

I wonder if farting would push you far enough to get unstuck

We all tried it - too muffled, not the right type of propulsive nozzle :)

Has anyone been impatient enough to call out for a little push?

Yes - we ask for a little help all the time.

Have you had any close calls/accidents while in orbit?

I was blinded by contamination in my spacesuit during my 1st spacewalk. It was the anti-fog used on my visor, took about 30 minutes for my eyes to tear enough to dilute it so that I could see again. Without gravity, tears don't fall, so they had to evaporate. No way to rub your eyes inside the helmet.

That sounds like a terrible situation. What happens if you sneeze in the helmet?

When we have to sneeze in our spacesuit, we lean our heads forward and sneeze into our chest, to keep it from splattering on the visor. Still messy, but the best compromise - clean it up when you de-suit.

Your time on the ISS renewed interest and excitement about space for a whole new generation around the world at the same time funding for space exploration and travel is being slashed by nearly all governments. How can we channel our enthusiasm into a meaningful protest of these funding cuts, or do you have other recommendations for improving our futures?

And Commander Hadfield, sir, thank you for doing this AMA. Fellow Canadian, huge fan of yours, huge.

EDIT: content

What we are doing here is important and worthwhile - discussing exploration, its purposes, its benefits, the useful results and insights we gain that make it of net worth to a nation. The best thing each of us can do is become informed on the subject, perhaps choose to work in aerospace, and directly tell your gov't rep what you support and why. It has to be based on cost vs benefit to be chosen over all other demands for tax dollars.

What's your favorite book (other than your own)?

Picking one book is hard - I liked Before the Dawn, Carrying the Fire, and I read Darwin's Ghost while on orbit. I also read Sh*t My Dad Says up there.

Col. Hadfield. Will you marry me?! :)

My wife would object, sorry. And she's strong.

Two questions:

  1. What is your favorite Sci-fi movie?

  2. Do you think that funding priority should go towards manned or unmanned space exploration?

  1. Galaxy Quest

  2. Both, always both. They serve different purposes - we need robots and sensors for certain tasks and risk levels, but we need people to understand, solve and appreciate the complexities of being in a new place.

What's your favorite city to look at from space?

Cool question. As I think about it I'm mentally playing back all the imagery and feeling of seeing cities from ISS.

My favorites are the big, old cities, as they are well-lit testaments to history and culture - London, Paris, Cairo.

Hey Chris, just wanted to say that your rendition of Ground Control to Major Tom actually made me happier than I probably should've been. Thank you for that.

You're welcome. Why do you think that version of Space Oddity was so popular? I've been thinking about it some.

If you could've had any animal in the ISS with you, what animal would it be?

It's a strange environment, weightlessness. I wouldn't want to bring an animal that would be scared or unable to adapt. Also food and pooping are problematic. So perhaps something calm and simple, a reliable pet, like a snail.

Nah, who am I kidding - I'd like Albert, my pug. He'd be hilarious and cheerful.

Hi Col. Chris! Reaaally important question. Do you fart more or less in space?

More - because it's impossible to burp when weightless (the gas, liquid and solid in your stomach all mix together).

As an experiment, try standing on your head and burping.

Do you still keep in touch with the people you lived with on the ISS?

Yes - I emailed with several of them today. Good people.

Hello, Commander!

I wanted to know what you had to say to people criticising India for launching the Mars Orbiter Mission while a large percentage of its population is still extremely poor? Do you think there is any merit in this argument?

edit: grammar

Yes, there is merit in the argument, but it's the facts that are important. How much does India spend on health, welfare and infrastructure vs research, development and exploration? What are the real numbers? All nations need both, in proportion. If we don't challenge and inspire our young, then we are losing out in the long run.

Hi Chris! What an awesome opportunity- thanks for fielding our questions!

Yes, we did. NASA kept our passports and visas, and brought them to us at landing, so we had them at the Karaganda airport to leave Kazakhstan. A funny but necessary detail of returning to Earth.

Hello Commander Hadfield,

Thanks a lot for your videos while you were in space - they were pretty awesome.

What was your favorite part of Canada to look at as you passed over it?

I felt a special thrill when I could see the plume of Niagara Falls from orbit. It's a wonder of the world up close, and very cool to see from ISS.

I also liked seeing the Manicouagan Crater in Quebec, a 215-million-year-old scar 100 km across, evidence of a huge asteroid impact, still easily visible to passing spacecraft.

Does your nose run more in space?

Your nose can't run without gravity ... you lose the 'drip' in post-nasal drip. But your sinuses don't drain either, so lots of full sinus feeling. I blew my nose regularly, and occasionally took a decongestant. It affected my singing voice a bit, I think.

Good evening Col. Hadfield,

Regarding my meeting you at the Surrey BC book signing- I hope the Conair RJ85 AirTanker ballcap fits!

Question for your advice sir: recommended pre-study for formation flight training??

I am a birddog pilot on the Cessna 525 CJ with Conair and alas our formation training is lacking. I am anticipating an invite to the Vintage Wings form school this spring as I have some good friends involved deeply there. I am sure we know the same. Any tips appreciated. Thank you.

Chris Bingham

Formation flying is a learned skill, with high danger. Start with the theory, truly understand the aerodynamic effects and safety plans, as well as all signals. Brief with all pilots together, in extreme detail. Start flying formation far away, very gradually work your way in. Have an exit plan, always. Watch cross-controlling. Consciously relax, every 30 seconds. Build-up complexity of maneuvers. And have fun!

Do you play Kerbal Space Program?

I don't play any computer games, sorry. In orbit life is just too grand and rare, and I've been too busy since I returned to Earth. Maybe at Christmas with my kids. I'll go with what they recommend.

Hi Chris, nice to see you here! How would you describe space to someone who hasn't been there? And what are your goals for 2014? Thanks!

Space is profound, endless, a textured black, a bottomless eternal bucket of untouchable velvet and untwinkling stars.

My goals for 2014 are the same as always - learn things, be useful, feel satisfied, play music, laugh and have fun, every day.

Do you believe in extraterrestrials?

I've always thought that was an odd way to ask. 'Believing' and 'believing in' are 2 different things.

Our best telescopes have shown us that there is basically an unlimited number of planets in the universe. To think that Earth is the only one where life could have developed is just self-importance.

But to think that intelligent life has traveled all the way here and is sneaking around observing us is also just self-importance.

The universe is basically endless. We have not yet found life anywhere but on Earth, but we're looking for it, to the best of our technical ability. All else is wishful thinking and science fiction.

Hello Chris, I have a question I've always wanted to know. How often do you guys use your imagination while floating in zero gravity, like do you ever imagine yourselves as Superman flying?

Yes, we even pose for Superman-like pictures, normally with a big goofy grin on our faces. But the inside of ISS is small enough that super-hero leaps often end in a tumbling crash into the other wall.

An interesting experiment on ISS is to close your eyes and imagine that, instead of flying, you are falling. You can suddenly make the mental transition and it can be startling, like that panic rush you get in a dream. Then you open your eyes :)

Who do you think has the better mustache, you, Burt Reynolds or Tom Selleck?

My wife has a bit of a thing for Tom Selleck, but she likes mine best.

Do you know if sex in space has been attempted before?

Not that I know of, and with a small crew, the interpersonal psychological effects would be complex and perhaps destructive. Astronauts are just people in space, but we are professionals and crewmembers, and mutual respect and team success is key.

Evening, Sir!

I'm currently an NCM in the RCAF and a former cadet (WO2) of 820 Chris Hadfield/Blue Thunder/Milton Squadron. I want to say 'thanks!' for doing your brief, yet awesome interview with some of the cadets earlier this year. You offered a lot of words-of-wisdom, which I know they appreciate.

I'm glad you have the time to answer some of these questions and I'd be ecstatic if you could answer mine! I had about a dozen questions written out, and had to choose the most important.

How do you keep the balance of family/work when your job demands so much time?

Edit: With regards to the end of the previous interview - Is there a need for muscle retaining medication in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Over.

Balancing work with family is hard. I think most people try, mess it up, apologize, change something, and try again.

The key is to get the whole family, self included, to see the big picture on both sides - work is necessary for income/standard of living/self-worth, and family is necessary for love/commitment/joy/humanity. Talk about the balance, often. Be patient. Remind each other when you are messing up. Make exceptions.

Give insight - take each other to work, spend time swapping roles. Make no job beneath you. Accept that it won't always be good. And work at it, together.

What is the most Canadian thing you've done in space?

I floated maple leaves on Space Station Mir and handed out maple sugar candies while playing Gordon Lightfoot, Stan Rogers and MacLean & MacLean on guitar.

Is it true you were kicked out of a movie theater during a showing of Gravity?

No, but that was a funny satire article.

What did you honestly think of the movie "Gravity"?

Gravity is visually the most realistic spacewalking movie ever made. I've done 2 spacewalks. They got the immensity and tumult of it just right, the feeling of tininess in a vast universe, with an ever-omnipresent Earth. The story line is very Hollywood, with lots of technical errors and oversights, but it's not intended to be a documentary or training film. It's just entertainment, and Sandra Bullock does a great job with her role, triumphing over adversity. As an engineer and astronaut I can easily criticize it, but why would I? Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the spectacle.

Hey. I'm 14, and you have inspired me to pursue the goal of becoming an astronaut. Just wanted to say thanks.

Thanks for saying that, I am glad to hear it. Remember 2 things:

Hi Col. Hadfield,

Firstly, you are a Canadian hero! I teach grade 2 and my students adore you.

Secondly, silly question just out of curiosity - does feeling sick or headachey feel any different in space? Does the lack of gravity affect the way illness feels?


We very seldom get sick on ISS. There's no one to catch a cold from. The worst that can happen to is get a headache (they feel the same, take a headache pill, no biggie), or to get injured (I scraped my knee on a sharp corner).

Throwing up is problematic, as without gravity, your vomit bounces back off the other side of the barf bag into your face. Plan ahead, bring a cloth to clean up. And tightly seal the bag - you live in the same air as the trash.

Not a question, I just want to say thanks. My six year old daughter is a big fan of yours. She's extremely shy, but has a huge love of science that was very much fueled by a combination of your music (she loved Music Monday) and your videos from the space station.

She met you briefly on Canada Day on parliament hill - you were walking up the hill behind a small barrier, obviously trying to get somewhere and not wanting to get caught by a huge crowd. Only a few of us saw you, and you came over to shake some hands quickly. But when you got to my daughter who I was holding up so she could see, she was too shy to say anything or shake your hand. So you took the time to stop and talk to her, to show her you both had the same Canada tattoos on your hands and to ask her about Music Monday. A huge smile, she shook your hand, and has been proudly telling the story ever since.

Everyone on the hill wanted to see you that day, and you took the time to make a little girl happy when you knew every extra moment could have led to being mobbed. Truly a class act. So thank you, and know that that quick moment is a memory she will treasure.

Thanks, I'm glad you told me that. I try and notice things, especially people who are quietly counting on me. Please tell your daughter 'Hello'!

Why aren't more stories like this on /r/aww instead of pictures of cats?

A fine question. I agree.

[No question]

Thank you everyone for the questions! I have an early morning tomorrow, so need to sign off. I'll come back and answer questions when I next get a few quiet minutes on-line. Night from Toronto!

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Chris Hadfield conducted on Reddit on 2013-12-04. The Reddit AMA can be found here.