Commander Chris Hadfield on Aliens, Thinking Like an Astronaut, and Sex in Space (Maybe)

Friday, November 08, 2013

This segment originally aired on November 8, 2013. An edited version was included in a best-of show on December 27, but the original audio is posted here.

Col. Chris Hadfield, astronaut and now author of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination and Being Prepared for Anything (Little, Brown and Company, 2013), talks about his experiences in space and takes listener's questions.


Lots of Things You Always Wanted to Ask an Astronaut (And Got a Chance to Ask)

  • Caller, 8 years old, asks: What does it feel like when you go into space? Chris Hadfield: It's very powerful, with lots of turbulence. Then engines shut off and you instantly float. "You would really like it." 
  • Caller asks: What's it like when you return to earth? Chris Hadfield says space travel changes the blood flow, and it took 2 weeks after returning to not feel dizzy, and 4 months before he could run again. 
  • Caller aks: What's an astronaut's take on alien life? Chris Hadfield: "I don't know of any astronauts who think we're alone in the universe." 
  • Brian asks: How do you think like an astronaut? Chris Hadfield says it's about how you confront and control your fear. 
  • Caller asks: Do astronauts become more or less religious when they go to space? Chris Hadfield: "It deepens whatever belief system got you there." 
  •  Brian asks: Is it physically possible to have sex in zero gravity? Chris Hadfield: "Of course! Why not? It could be fun. But that's personal."



Excerpt: An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth


Mission Impossible 

The windows of a spaceship casually frame miracles. Every 92 minutes, another sunrise: a layer cake that starts with orange, then a thick wedge of blue, then the richest, darkest icing decorated with stars. The secret patterns of our planet are revealed: mountains bump up rudely from orderly plains, forests are green gashes edged with snow, rivers glint in the sunlight, twisting and turning like silvery worms. Continents splay themselves out whole, surrounded by islands sprinkled across the sea like delicate shards of shattered eggshells.

Floating in the airlock before my first spacewalk, I knew I was on the verge of even rarer beauty. To drift outside, fully immersed in the spectacle of the universe while holding onto a spaceship orbiting Earth at 17,500 miles per hour—it was a moment I’d been dreaming of and working toward most of my life. But poised on the edge of the sublime, I faced a somewhat ridiculous dilemma: How best to get out there? The hatch was small and circular, but with all my tools strapped to my chest and a huge pack of oxygen tanks and electronics strapped onto my back, I was square. Square astronaut, round hole.

The cinematic moment I’d envisioned when I first became an astronaut, the one where the soundtrack swelled while I elegantly pushed off into the jet-black ink of infinite space, would not be happening. Instead, I’d have to wiggle out awkwardly and patiently, focused less on the magical than the mundane: trying to avoid snagging my spacesuit or getting snarled in my tether and presenting myself to the universe trussed up like a roped calf.

Gingerly, I pushed myself out headfirst to see the world in a way only a few dozen humans have, wearing a sturdy jetpack with its own thrusting system and joystick so that if all else failed, I could fire my thrusters, powered by a pressurized tank of nitrogen, and steer back to safety. A pinnacle of experience, an unexpected path.

Square astronaut, round hole. It’s the story of my life, really: trying to figure out how to get where I want to go when just getting out the door seems impossible. On paper, my career trajectory looks preordained: engineer, fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut. Typical path for someone in this line of work, straight as a ruler. But that’s not how it really was. There were hairpin curves and dead ends all the way along. I wasn’t destined to be an astronaut. I had to turn myself into one.

From the book An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination and Being Prepared for Anything. Copyright (c) 2013 by Col. Chris Hadfield. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved.



Chris Hadfield

Comments [18]

Amy from Manhattan

Anthony, this was a rebroadcast from last month (see dates on earlier comments), so unless he looks back at this page, Col. Hadfield won't see your comment. You might want to write to him directly.

But I can tell you that the colonel isn't the 1st person working for the Air Force who was concerned w/world peace & space. Gen. Martin Menter (my uncle) was the pioneer of space law & active w/the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

Dec. 27 2013 12:36 PM
Anthony from East Village

Thank you Chris and Brian,
I had the earth shot taken from the moon on my book "World Peace?" in 1983. What you are doing as an astronaut is a wonderful thing we should be doing with our technonlogy. Can you speak to those in Russian, china and the US about the thousands of nuclear warhead rockets we have on the ready pointed at each other.

I'd much rather use the technology of rockets for what you experienced…. you must know this right?

You worked for the Air Force…. we need your voice looking at this delicate tine biosphere…

thank you.

Dec. 27 2013 11:36 AM

why not bring up sex in space,why not ? what is taboo or horrible about that ? you're silly,lady poster. silly...! are we prudish or incurious ?

Nov. 20 2013 12:46 PM
Shannon from NJ

I was so excited to hear this in the car with my 9 and 4 year old. But did you really have to bring up "sex in space" Brian? Really?

Nov. 10 2013 11:57 AM
Robert W. Benuhan from New York, NY

You can call me Bob from Manhattan,

Thanks for all of your inspiring videos from the ISS, before the viral David Bowie video. To be answered whenever you have a chance. As a 54 yr old man who envies you & all astronauts, I had my life inspired by an 8 yr old trip to the Hayden Planetarium, and reading that Neil Armstrong learned to fly before learning to drive, I briefly took pilot lessons at age 14 b4 leaving a well-paying but abusive job. I had planned to go to a college with an Air Force ROTC program and attempt to qualify as a test pilot, but the terminal illness of my mother required me to go to a college nearby. After she passed away I hoped to first complete a B.S. in physics, then a graduate physics degree to qualify as a rare but possible space shuttle candidate. As life happens, as an only child, I had to interrupt my undergraduate education to become a caregiver for a father who was ill for many years before he passed away in 1995. So I could only become an envious supporter of the space shuttle and ISS programs, appreciating how nerves of steel can be developed by excitement of powerful flight experience. Thanks for inspiring future generations of space explorers. Glad to hear that your health and endurance are gradually returning to normal, comprehending how your returning expedition needed to initially be only seated. Admitting to being angry at President Obama's incurious & negligent cancellation of Constellation moon program, yielding moon to China, I hope the next President will reinvigorate a moon program, augmenting the existing Crew Capsule and Space Launch System programs for rapid resumption of US and allied moon exploration, and mineral exploitation, not ridiculous notion of landing on an irregular asteroid or far off goal of a manned Mars mission with so many unanswered challenges, such as more rapid propulsion system and enhanced radiation protection. So try to keep your astronaut skills as active as more limited launch capacities allow, and as many of my generation might say, "rock on" Col. Hadfield!

Nov. 08 2013 12:20 PM
Ralph M from Central Jersey

Col. Hadfield has probably done more to humanize the global Space Program than any astronaut in memory. He has a wonderful warmth and empathy that instantly engages the listener, plus his unexcelled experience in both management and active flight participation in the program gives him a perspective that is amazing and unique. Especially in this unfortunate period in our history when America has only a minimal manned space program, Col. Hadfield is the perfect spokesperson to keep the dream alive until we can come to our senses and get back to being a leader in space technology and pioneering exploration of the solar system. Thanks, colonel, for all the tremendous and heart-felt energy you're putting into your outreach to us Earthlings -- you are doing a fabulous job.

Nov. 08 2013 12:12 PM
Tim from Sparkill, NY

What a gloomy, negative and pessimistic guy! (sarcasm)

I love that Col. Hadfield is on his book tour. I have heard him on the radio 8+ times in the past few weeks and I NEVER get tired of listening to his insight, humor and crystal clear articulation.

Thanks Col. Hadfield!

Nov. 08 2013 12:03 PM
Michael Opalenski from Brooklyn, NY

Unbelievable show today Brian! From start to finish!!! You guys really kill it. Love it. Keep it up!

Nov. 08 2013 12:00 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Question: Did Colonel Hadfield get space-sickness? How does one combat that?

Nov. 08 2013 11:53 AM
John A.

"In the Shadow of the Moon"(2007) is a fun film from the original astronauts that all fans should see... Chris here is as interesting as they were there.

Nov. 08 2013 11:52 AM

This is a wonderful segment, and I really appreciate the Colonel's candor. So glad to hear that he has spoken to many school kids: I am sure he is very inspiring. Thanks, Brian and crew, and especially Colonel Hadfield.

Nov. 08 2013 11:47 AM
Er-nay from UWS

In the recent film "Gravity" the Sandra Bullock character is spinning uncontrollably. In reality, would she feel it at all? Couldn't she just close her eyes and no sense of spin?

Nov. 08 2013 11:45 AM
devin from nyc

i'm sure you've all seen this, but it's pretty funny

Nov. 08 2013 11:43 AM
David from NJ

Can Col. Hadfield comment on the importance of space exploration for the future of the US given the apparent lack of interest in Congress to fund it?

Nov. 08 2013 11:39 AM
Maria from Brooklyn

A question for Mr. Hadfield, whom I've heard on air and in person and who strikes me as very thoughtful and refreshingly not macho:
How do you keep girls interested in learning the math necessary for being involved in the space program? My fifth grade daughter excels at math and expresses much interest in space exploration. However, she's already begun saying she "hates math," and I fear that some of this will derail her passion for space-related goals. How were your skills at age ten? How was math taught then? (I think how it's taught is a major part of it). Writing this hurriedly. Hope it makes sense. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

Nov. 08 2013 11:37 AM
genejoke from Brooklyn

Mr. Hadfield, what do you think of the conspiracy theory that the first U.S. moon landing was faked?

Nov. 08 2013 11:33 AM
John A.

What's his opinion of "Gravity"?

Nov. 08 2013 11:31 AM
Leah from South Harlem

Chris Hadfield, you and your video are AWESOME. Enough said.

Nov. 08 2013 10:48 AM

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