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Chris Hadfield: The life of astronauts is much more than an exit in space

When a lot of people Think of the astronauts, they think of absurdly skilled men and women drifting through the cylindrical modules of the International Space Station or floating beside its vast golden solar panels during an improbably serene sortie. The improbable thing is not the presence of a living soul in low Earth orbit (the SSI has been permanently inhabited for two decades), but the fact that anyone falling around the planet at a speed of 17,000 km / h can do what they do with such equanimity.

Astronauts owe their calm in space to the time they spend preparing here on Earth. "I've been an astronaut for 21 years," says Chris Hadfield, the charismatic Canadian astronaut known for his sense of social media, his photos taken in low Earth orbit, his unstoppable cover of David Bowie's "Space Odyssey" and his chevron mustache. "I stayed in space only six months."

In this video, Hadfield, who retired in 2013, describes not only this brief stay in space, three missions of 166 days, but all the time he has been given to carry out these excursions. People often ask him what astronauts do between spaceflights, "as if we were sitting in a waiting room or living room somewhere." But #astronautlife is not limited to microgravity.

After becoming an astronaut in 1992, Hadfield, for example, spent most of his time on planets supporting other astronauts. During 25 consecutive Space Shuttle missions, he was the main person responsible for NASA capsule communication, or CAPCOM; in orbit around the astronauts' mission control, it was Hadfield whom they would talk to. "When Houston wants to talk to a spaceship, 50 people can not talk on the radio," Hadfield said. "I was sort of the trusted agent of the crew on Earth."

The time spent supporting other astronauts prepared Hadfield for his own stay in space. In fact, all this time spent on inbound transmissions from a low Earth orbit may have helped calm his nerves when he ended up calling Houston for help a few years later.

In 2001, Hadfield was working outside the International Space Station on his first space trip, when he was blind in one eye. The anti-fog treatment on the visor of his spacesuit had irritated him, rending him and making his vision blurred. Having no where to go in microgravity, the liquid has accumulated and flowed on its other eye, blinding it completely. He called Houston for help.

The control of the mission asked Hadfield to open the bleed valve of his helmet. He remembers floating there, blind, attached to the ISS by his feet, listening to the whistling air in his spacesuit. "Fortunately, the fresh oxygen that was blowing on the back of my helmet was enough to start to evaporate the big balls of tears on my eyes," Hadfield said. "Finally, I could see again, I told them 'I'm fine', close my valve and go back to work." You know, as we do.

Hadfield then spent the early years supervising various branches of NASA, first as the agency's director of operations in Russia, where he was perfectly familiar with the mechanical operation of the Roscosmos Soyuz TMA spacecraft and the Orlan space suit. He then put his degree in mechanical engineering to the post of robotics chief of the astronaut office. After that, he assumed the duties of operations manager for the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. From 2008 to 2009, he trained as a replacement for astronaut Robert Thirsk for the 21st expedition into the ISS, while contributing to the development of emergency procedures for the I & # 39; orbital outpost.

Once again, all of this on-the-job training for his fellow astronauts served him well: in 2010, NASA named Hadfield Canada's first Canadian commander of the International Space Station.

Divided during his 21 years as an astronaut, Hadfield's time out of the Earth's atmosphere accounted for only 2% of his career. It was even less than that, if you count the time that he spent to become an astronaut as a member of the Canadian Army. Or before that, as a cadet member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Or before this, while a child was playing an astronaut in a Quaker Oats rocket box. In space flight, as in life, you need a good preparation to be really up to it.

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