When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an astronaut. Well, no actually I didn’t, all that pooing into a bag and no way of stopping my stash of Penny Arrows floating away would have been more than flesh and blood could bear. But now, thanks to a social media savvy Canadian, space travel has become a whole lot more attractive.
To be honest, I’ve not paid a lot of attention to the International Space Station, it’s out of sight and so out of mind. Yes it was interesting when the first bits and pieces were rocketed up there in 1998 by the Russians. I seem to remember we were all terribly concerned that the modules made by different countries would fit together and of course I had half an eye on the development of the toilet facilities.
The ISS, now the size of a five-bedroomed house, has been continually occupied since November 2000 and had more than 200 visitors, though none dropped in unannounced. They have been a small, select and quite private bunch. But not any more.
As well as being an all-round clever guy, with a long and distinguished career as a military and civilian pilot, and engineer along with holding the rather cool title of Chief Astronaut of the Canadian Space Agency, Flight Engineer Chris Hadfield tweets. But unlike the rest of the Twittersphere chatter, anything from @Cmdr_Hadfield is out of this world.
Since his arrival at the ISS before Christmas, Chris has tweeted most magnificent photos of the Earth below. Fellow Canadian William ‘Captain Kirk’ Shatner was amazed at the technology, ‘Are you tweeting from space?’ he asked the Commander, possibly wondering if the wifi had enough bandwidth. ‘Yes, Standard Orbit, Captain,’ he replied. ‘And we’re detecting signs of life on the surface.’ The shots of Scotland so impressed First Minister Alex Salmond that he invited Chris to visit on his return home. Nice one, Alex!
His photos and 140-character summaries of the work up there are compulsive viewing and reading. He also takes questions, answer to a recent children’s ‘ask me anything’ was definitely the right stuff. ‘Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become’.
He’s up there until May. When he returns, in my view, he will have done more to raise the profile of life in space than anyone before him, and the world is better for it. Though I’ve not yet seen any information about the poo bags. Still, sometimes less is more.