Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield, currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS), is quickly earning Internet cred and thousands of fans worldwide because of his tweets from Earth’s orbit.
Hadfield tweets several times a day, posting amazing images of Earth and of life on the ISS. He takes time to reply to fans on Twitter, post images to his Facebook page, videos to YouTube, and has answered questions on Reddit. Somewhere in his extensive pre-mission training, Chris Hadfield must have had some social media training, as well.
Chris Hadfield is simultaneously showing the world what innovation and space exploration looks like, as well as how to master social media and unite people around the world with shared dreams and imagination.
Recently the number of his Twitter followers rose to over 210,000, the majority of whom began following Hadfield within the last two weeks.
Hadfield has said that he is addicted to looking down at Earth from the ISS Cupola and taking photos of the landscapes he sees. His photos show snow-covered Canadian cities, sandstorms in the US, beaches in Africa, and deserts in the Middle East. His photos provide a view of our planet that we don’t get to see from the ground.
Hadfield also shares images of what it’s like to live on the ISS, giving those of us who are Earth-bound a behind-the-scenes look at something we may never experience. To satisfy the curiosity of many, he has posted photos of his sleeping quarters, the food he’s eaten (vacuum-sealed cereal and powdered milk, anyone?), the washroom facilities, the exercise equipment he uses daily (a treadmill in near-weightlessness!), and the labs where experiments are carried out. His photos and comments drive home the idea that he and his fellow astronauts are living and working in space for weeks on end.
His photos are amazing, but it is also his personality that has helped garner him so many fans. Hadfield seems accessible, despite working on important science and billion-dollar equipment that zooms overhead at 27,500 kph. Hadfield takes time to answer questions, play his guitar, root for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and make jokes from space. Obviously a Star Trek fan, earlier this month he had Twitter interactions with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, and Wil Weaton. Hadfield later made a Star Trek joke when he posted a photo of himself along with the caption, “I’m proud of being Canadian, but after yesterday’s Twitter conversation am starting to question wearing this red shirt.”
Hadfield has not been shy to promote his love of Canada. He proudly spoke about operating the Canadarm2 this month, one of Canada’s major contributions to the ISS (and the first time he’s used it since he helped install it back in 2001). He is also bilingual, answering questions from the public and the media in both French and English.
Documenting the work of astronauts is nothing new. Rocket and shuttle lift-offs have been televised and astronauts have recorded grainy audio and video for the public. In the past, school groups were given the opportunity to communicate with astronauts via radio. These methods of communication are still being used today, but it is the immediacy and personality of Hadfield’s communiqués that make what he is doing refreshingly new. In response to Hadfield’s Tweets, NASA Astronaut Buzz Aldrin Tweeted “Neil & I would’ve Tweeted from the moon if we could have, but I would prefer to Tweet from Mars. Maybe by 2040.”
There are hopes that the online popularity of Chris Hadfield may inspire young people to enter science and strive toward the exploration of unknown places. It may also inject support and funding for the various private and public space programs around the world. Coupled with last year’s Mars Curiosity missions and the Red Bull Stratos jump, Hadfield’s ISS mission has helped put space exploration back into the public’s imagination.
Currently serving as Flight Engineer until he takes over as Commander in March, Hadfield will become the first Canadian Commander of the ISS. His missions on the ISS will keep him in space for five months.
Follow Chris Hadfield on Twitter (@Cmdr_Hadfield) or Facebook (facebook.com/AstronautChrisHadfield). His YouTube videos are posted on the Canadian Space Agency’s channel at youtube.com/canadianspaceagency.