Great Canadians on Those Who Inspired Them
moon. All of a sudden, he felt a click between what he’d seen on the screen and what he saw up in the sky. That connection, he says, was life defining.
It would be two decades before Canada started its own space program. Even so, Hadfield says, from that moment on, he began making all of his decisions (what to eat for lunch, what to study in school) based on one simple notion: what would an astronaut do? He got good marks and loved music, playing in several bands, though music was never something he considered as a career option.
Instead, it’s been an important creative release. Hadfield composed an album of music in space (2015’s Space Sessions: Songs From a Tin Can), trying to capture his emotional experiences in the same way his daily medical checkups documented his physical state. Hadfield cites Stan Rogers, the late Canadian folk singer, as his most significant influence. Rogers, he says, “took mental, poetic snapshots of our entire country,” and helped us better understand the Canadian collective experience.
The same could be said of David Thompson, the British-Canadian explorer who mapped out 3.9 million square kilometres of North America— an impressive feat. Still, Hadfield is particularly fascinated by the two-year period beginning in 1788, when Thompson injured his leg and became unable to travel. Many would wallow in self-pity, but the great explorer used that time to deepen his understanding of math and map-making. One gets the sense Thompson also wouldn’t have been much for sipping coffee on his porch.
LIKE HIS HEROES, Hadfield has always been driven by a sense of purpose. He gets about 2,000 requests a year—to visit schools, deliver lectures, enter the political fray. He can’t say yes to all of them, but he says yes to a lot. And if it seems like his projects are widely varied, that’s because his ambition is vast. Hadfield wants to preserve the planet, inspire the next generation and connect us all to the deeper meaning of our earthly existence.
These aims are apparent, for example, in Miniverse, a documentary in which Hadfield drives from “Mercury” (New Jersey) to “Pluto” (the Santa Monica Pier), exploring an animated solar system that’s been superimposed across the central United States. “If you can take something complex
HADFIELD WANTS TO PRESERVE THE PLANET,
INSPIRE THE NEXT GENERATION AND
CONNECT US ALL TO THE MEANING OF LIFE.