Docstoc

Travels in Space

Document Sample
Travels in Space Powered By Docstoc
					                                       Tr a v e l s i n S p a c e
                                    Chris Hadfield has a pastime that few of us will ever be able
                                      to pursue – taking photographs of Canada from space

                                                              BY WYNNE   THOMAS




                                                                                   C
This article was prepared before the tragic loss of the                                          HRIS HADFIELD HAS BEEN DOING A LOT
space shuttle Columbia and its crew. Following the dis-                                            of travelling recently and, like many
aster, in which he lost seven friends, astronaut Chris                                             travellers, enjoys taking pictures of
Hadfield told Wynne Thomas why he believes it is impor-         “Taking pictures                    the places he sees. “I’ve seen such
tant to Canada and the rest of the world that manned               of Earth                        wonders of the world as Everest, the
space flight should be continued.                                                   complete length of the Nile, the Cape of Good Hope
    “Humankind will never stop exploring,” he said,             from space is      and the Tasman Sea many times,” he told me
“either here on Earth or beyond it. We have already                                recently, “and I’ve photographed most of them.”
learned a great deal about the universe, and about our          an astronaut’s         Hadfield, however, is a different kind of traveller
own planet, from our first tentative steps in space. In the     greatest pastime,   from most of us – and has the pictures to prove it. A
process, Canada has acquired much new expertise and                                former fighter and test pilot with the Canadian
built a new industry worth $1.87 billion a year that pro-      and, of course,     Forces, he is one of only six Canadian astronauts and
vides employment for 6,000 people.                                                 has participated in two space missions. In 1995, as a
    “If we, as Canadians, choose not to continue our              everyone         crew member on the space shuttle Atlantis, Hadfield
participation in space exploration, we shall not only jeop-     wants to take      visited the Russian space station, Mir (he is the only
ardize our leadership in such areas as robotics, but                               Canadian to have boarded it in orbit), and became
we shall be denying our children the chance to achieve            a snapshot       the first Canadian to operate Canadarm in orbit. Five
their full potential, and the opportunity that I and other                         and a half years later, he boarded the space shuttle
Canadian astronauts have had to participate in the explo-        of his or her     Endeavour on a mission whose primary objective
ration of the universe and, by so doing, to contribute to        hometown”         was to deliver Canadarm2 to the International Space
the improvement of life here on Earth.                                             Station and install it there. Hadfield was the first
    “Exploration has never been a risk-free enterprise,                            Canadian to leave a spacecraft and float in space – in
but risk has always been part of the price that mankind                            fact, he performed two spacewalks during the mission.
has paid for progress.”                                                            Altogether, he spent nearly 15 hours outside the


12 NUMBER 1, 2003
CANADIAN SPACE AGENCY/NASA




                             Chris Hadfield, the first
                             Canadian astronaut to
                             walk in space (above),
                             shot Sault Ste. Marie,
                             Ont. (left), from the Inter-
                             national Space Station.


                                IMPERIAL OIL REVIEW 13
space station, travelling 10 times around the world.                        Hadfield. He’s very keen on documenting what this
    During the course of these space voyages, Hadfield                       country looks like from space. He’s the person you
took hundreds of pictures, using a variety of specialized                   should talk to.” And so, with the help of the agency,
cameras. Many of the photographs documented tech-                           I tracked down Hadfield in Russia, at the Yuri
nical aspects of the missions for future analysis or mon-                   Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, a
itored the condition of the shuttle. In other pho-                          military complex roughly the size of Canadian Forces
tographs, Hadfield recorded what planet Earth – in                           Base Moose Jaw, situated an hour-and-a-half’s drive
                                                            “If you plan
particular, that portion we call Canada – looks like both                   east-northeast of the Kremlin. He has been at Star
from the spacecraft and from the space station itself.       to take a      City since July 2001, serving as NASA’s lead repre-
                                                                            sentative there and completing his cosmonaut train-
                                                             picture of


IN
                      AN ODD GEOGRAPHIC PARADOX,                            ing, which qualifies him to fly in Russia’s Soyuz space-
                      the first time I ever saw a pho-                       craft. At -5 C, it was a cold morning in eastern
                                                            Vancouver,
                      tograph of Canada taken from                          Ontario; at -12 C, it was a colder evening in Star City.
                      space, I was deep in the south-       you have to         “It’s true,” admits Hadfield, “I do have a thing
                      ern hemisphere – on a cruise                          about making sure we have as wide and representa-
ship off Cape Horn, in fact. Among the guest lectur-        start getting   tive a selection of space shots of Canada as possible.
ers aboard was a former NASA official who screened                           Taking pictures of Earth from space is an astronaut’s
                                                            your camera
a selection of slides of various parts of the world                         greatest pastime, and, of course, everyone wants to
taken during space shuttle flights. One of the slides        ready over      take a snapshot of his or her hometown. Even so,
was of Canada: a photograph of British Columbia’s                           I’ve taken a ribbing from my fellow astronauts over
Lower Fraser Valley taken from an altitude of more          Australia”      my enthusiasm for taking pictures of Sarnia [Ont.],
than 300 kilometres. Strikingly beautiful, it was the                       where I was born.” (Sarnia’s mayor, Mike Bradley,
only shot of Canada that was offered that morning,                          has twice used photographs of the city taken from
but it got me wondering how many other pictures of                          space by Hadfield to grace his Christmas cards.) It’s
this country taken from space existed.                                      fascinating to spot and capture familiar features from
    My question was quickly answered by the Cana-                           space, says the astronaut. For example, he tells me,
dian Space Agency on my return to Canada. There                             he has been able to identify the overgrown sections
were scores – photographs of cities, towns, rivers,                         of the old plank road built in the late 1850s to trans-
mountains, valleys and other prominent geographi-                           port oil from Oil Springs, Ont., to a refinery in near-
cal features. “The photograph you saw,” said a Space                        by Sarnia. “From space,” says Hadfield, “they stand
Agency spokesperson, “was probably taken by Chris                           out quite clearly.”


14 NUMBER 1, 2003
                                                                                                           Hadfield captured
                                                                                                           Caraquet, N.B. (above),
                                                                                                           and the International
                                                                                                           Space Station (left)
                                                                                                           as it passed over the
                                                                                                           Manicouagan meteor
                                                                                                           crater in Quebec.




WE
                               CAN THANK THE COUN-                            the problems that weightlessness entails. Then there is
                               try’s latitudinal position                     the speed at which the spacecraft is travelling, which
                               on the globe for the                           means that the particular target you have in mind is
                               fact that when a space                         only in your viewfinder for the briefest of intervals.
                               shuttle is on a mission                            “What it boils down to,” says Hadfield, “is that you
to the International Space Station, it passes over most                       have to make your preparations for a particular pho-
of the more heavily populated areas of Canada in an          “Canada is       tograph well in advance. If you plan to take a picture
easterly direction, typically crossing the coast over                         of Vancouver, for example, you have to start getting
Vancouver, reaching a maximum latitude of 51.6              almost always     your camera ready over Australia. When you have
degrees north between Calgary and Edmonton (from                              your camera set up, you position yourself at a window,
where you can see as far as the Great Lakes and              sparklingly      manoeuvre your feet into footholds, which are there
James Bay), then tracking north of Toronto, south           clear, with not   to give you some stability, and, usually, wipe someone
of Montreal and across the Atlantic provinces. At a                           else’s fingerprints off the window. The constantly
ground speed of eight kilometres a second, the coast-         too much        changing angle of the sun makes it extremely difficult
to-coast crossing of Canada takes 10 minutes, a fact                          to get the lighting right. And the speed of the space-
that even a space veteran like Hadfield still finds          cloud cover,     craft means that you have to pan the camera or you
astonishing.                                                which makes       end up with a blur. But when you get the occasional
    “I can recall the first time I crossed Canada,” he                         great picture, you realize it’s worth all the trouble.”
muses. “I was moving from Royal Roads Military               for beautiful        The range of cameras carried by a spacecraft to
College in Victoria to the Royal Military College                             photograph Earth and the particulars of space would
[of Canada] in Kingston, Ont. My transportation was         photography”      make any professional photographer salivate. When
a 1962 Volkswagen, and the trip took maybe 10 days.                           Hadfield went to the International Space Station
Years later, as a pilot in the Canadian Forces, I flew                         on Endeavour, for example, he had a wide range of
a CF-18 – Canada’s standard fighter aircraft – coast-                          cameras at his disposal, including the type of 35-mil-
to-coast at an altitude of about 60 metres. Allowing                          limetre camera familiar to amateur photographers,
for refuelling stops, that took 10 hours. In space, the                       70-millimetre Hasselblads, a variety of video and
same trip takes 10 minutes. You can’t ignore the                              digital cameras and an IMAX 3-D, along with a var-
parallel. To me, it stands as a metaphor for progress.”                       ied selection of lenses.
    One of the lessons that a rookie astronaut learns                             “As a species, we are extremely visual, and often a
is that taking pictures from space is far from being a                        picture really is worth a thousand words when it
snap. In the first place, Hadfield explains, there are all                      comes to explaining to Canadians this country’s role


                                                                                                              IMPERIAL OIL REVIEW 15
in space exploration and in giving them an idea                                 inside a spacecraft can’t compare with the experience
of what their country looks like from space,” says                              of being outside, literally floating alone in space. The
Hadfield. “Also, of course, space photography allows                             only analogy I can offer is that of being in a small
us to see Earth from a unique perspective and to                                room, where one’s view of the world is confined to
observe significant changes in the environment.                                 what can be seen through a tiny window, and then,
And it allows us to track the effects of severe envi-                           for the first time, going into the outside world and
ronmental disruptions – for example, the profound           “Even the view      seeing everything with an unimpaired view.
effect on the earth’s atmosphere that resulted from                                 “On my second spacewalk, I was outside the
the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines               you get         space station helping assemble Canadarm2, when
is clearly visible in space photographs.”                                       mission control in Houston asked me to stand by
    As a subject for space photography, says Hadfield,        from inside a      for some minutes while a minor problem was
Canada is a dream. “Europe is very difficult to photo-          spacecraft       resolved. I was delighted to oblige. I released my grip
graph,” he tells me. “The pollution that covers much                            on everything except the fabric handhold on the
of Western Europe means that everything comes out           can’t compare       space station and turned to face the direction in
grey. Canada, on the other hand, is almost always                               which we were travelling. The best camera in the
sparklingly clear, with not too much cloud cover,               with the        world couldn’t capture the scene. I can only describe
which makes for beautiful photography.”                      experience of      it – inadequately – as being stupefyingly beautiful.”
    Hadfield feels particularly fortunate, because he                                At the relatively young age of 43, Hadfield’s list
was able to see two different Canadas. “When I went         being outside,      of accomplishments is long. After graduating from
into space in November 1995, it was a black-and-                                the Royal Military College, where he earned a bach-
white country,” he explains. “Coming across the             literally floating   elor’s degree in mechanical engineering, he went on
Prairies, I could see cities, towns and highways dark-      alone in space”     to do research work at Ontario’s University of
ly etched into a snow-covered landscape – strikingly                            Waterloo, designing and testing low-pressure fuel
beautiful in its way, but essentially void of colour. But                       pumps for aircraft fuel tanks, and later took a mas-
on my second flight, in the spring of 2001, Canada                              ter’s degree in aviation systems at the University of
presented a much more colourful picture. You could                              Tennessee. He was the top pilot in basic flying train-
see crops just bursting into flower, and lots of places                          ing and the top graduate in basic jet training. He was
were turning a lush green.”                                                     also the first CF-18 pilot to intercept a Soviet Bear
    However, adds Hadfield, even the perfect photo-                              bomber off the coast of Newfoundland. In 1988,
graph can’t come close to portraying the magnifi-                               Hadfield graduated as the top pilot from the U. S.
cence of space. “And even the view you get from                                 Air Force Test Pilot School and three years later was


16 NUMBER 1, 2003
                                                                                                          Long Point, Ont.
                                                                                                          (above), and
                                                                                                          Montreal (left) were
                                                                                                          also subjects of shots
                                                                                                          taken by Hadfield
                                                                                                          during missions.




named the U.S. Navy’s Test Pilot of the Year.                                 we find ourselves on a similar cusp. We are learning
    So what is left for a man who has already flown                           to do safely in space many of the same things that
twice in space and who has collected a hatful of                              those early earthbound explorers did centuries ago.
international awards for his contributions to avia-                           It’s an important first step and an opportunity for all
tion? That’s an easy question. Chris Hadfield is itch-                         countries of the world to learn from space and to
ing to get back into space on a long-term basis. “Very                        understand our planet better.”
soon,” he says, “we’re going to have a Canadian                                   And Canada, Hadfield believes, has a key contri-
                                                           Hadfield seems
living on the International Space Station. Well, I                            bution to make. “I honestly feel – this is not propa-
would be delighted to make SPACE my postal code             to have little    ganda – that Canada has done it just right. We can’t
for a while. I would love to be there so that I could                         be the leader, but we have an essential part to play
get to know the world – really get to know it – from       doubt that there   in the exploration of the universe. We are
the perspective of space.                                                     unequalled in the field of space robotics. It’s a niche
                                                           will be manned
    “When I visited the space station for a short time                        role, if you like, but one that has won us a terrific
on Endeavour, I was fascinated by the mental transi-          flights to       international reputation. We were only the third
tion that the permanent crew had made – they had                              nation in the world to launch a satellite. And
come to regard Earth as a separate and distant entity,       Mars – and       Canadarm represents an incredible technological
so that instead of saying something like, ‘Houston                            achievement. I’m convinced that Canada has a huge
                                                            perhaps, in a
wants us to do this or that,’ they’d say, ‘Earth wants                        future in space.”
us to do this.’ This is the kind of mental adjustment –    distant future,



                                                                              A
a transition to living in space – we are going to need                                  ND HADFIELD HIMSELF PLANS TO BE A PART
before we go to Mars.”                                       permanent                     of that future for a long time to come.
    And Hadfield seems to have little doubt that                                            The year and a half that he has spent
                                                             settlement
there will be manned flights to Mars – and perhaps,                                             in Russia (he speaks fluent Russian)
in a distant future, permanent settlement there or              there                           has given him a valuable insight
on other planets. He draws an interesting historical                          into what nations can achieve in space, not as sep-
parallel. “When the early navigators first developed                           arate and competing countries, but together as
the confidence to sail out of sight of land and visit                         “earthlings.” And Russian cooperation in the inter-
the then unexplored areas of the globe, there was no                          national space program is, he feels, “an event of his-
idea of settlement. That came later as people began                           torical significance that I find inspirational.”
to realize the opportunities that existed for trade and,                         “I am privileged,” he reflects, “to be involved in
yes, for the collective betterment of mankind. Today,                         such a confluence of history.” ❒


                                                                                                             IMPERIAL OIL REVIEW 17

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Stats:
views:30
posted:3/27/2010
language:English
pages:6