Astronaut Chris Hadfield helps kids face fears

Image: Chris Hadfield
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is arguably best-known for his orbital rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Bowie gave his approval for Hadfield’s performance. (Credit: CSA)

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield says he wanted to be an astronaut ever since he was a kid – but he had to get over one big problem: Outer space is dark. “Like really, really dark,” he said.

“I was afraid of the dark, so it made me feel sort of daunted,” Hadfield recalled Sept. 13 during an evening talk at Town Hall Seattle.

Recognizing and overcoming that kind of fear is the focus of Hadfield’s totally biographical storybook for kids, titled “The Darkest Dark.” During the first official book-tour stop, Hadfield wowed the crowd with a reading, plus an airing of a song that ties in with the book. Then he took questions.

One of the high points came when a young boy clad in a spacesuit costume came up on stage to ask a question: How high can you jump in space? Hadfield and the boy took turns jumping, and figuring out how high the jump would have been in Mars’ one-third gravity, or the moon’s one-sixth gravity.

Then Hadfield explained that a jump off the side of a spaceship in zero gravity might never end. “You can jump forever,” he told the boy. Hadfield waited several beats to let that sink in, and then added: “So you want to be careful.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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