Do you know what defines a truly influential person? Is it someone that pushes the boundaries of human knowledge? Is it someone that inspires others to pursue their dreams? Chris Hadfield is one such person. Born in Sarnia, Ontario, on August 29, 1959, former astronaut and retired fighter and test pilot, Col. Chris Hadfield is truly a man of many contributions. He vindicated Canada’s contribution to space exploration, inspired young people around the world to pursue space, and is a symbol of patriotic pride for Canada.
Chris Hadfield played a crucial role in the installation of Canadarm2, and without him, the International Space Station would have never been fully built. Canadarm2 is the improved version of the original Canadarm, which was built for the Space Shuttle. This piece of machinery is responsible for constructing the ISS and, as the name suggests, was designed and built by Canada, and is proof of Canada’s robotics capabilities and our contribution to space exploration. The Canadarm2 is still being used to this day to construct new modules, maintain and repair the International Space Station, catch re-supply crafts sent from Earth, and even assist astronauts in their spacewalks.
But none of this would have been possible without Chris Hadfield. By training extensively at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for a year and a half, Chris Hadfield performed Canada’s first spacewalk, and along with Scott Parazynski, installed Canadarm2. Not many people can say that they have directly contributed to an international scientific endeavor that has opened up countless new doors in space exploration, which is among the of many reasons why Chris Hadfield is the most influential Canadian.
Being an astronaut is not just about blasting off in a rocket to the ISS, it’s also about educating others about space and the space program. Chris Hadfield is highly enthusiastic about educating others, particularly because he wants to show people what the CSA and NASA really do. “I have found it frustrating at times that so few people know what the space program does and, as a result, are unaware that they benefit from it. Many people object to ‘wasting money in space’ but have no idea how much is actually spent on space exploration.” Chris Hadfield writes books and does public talks to explain just this, and tells people what being an astronaut is really like. Exploration is part of who we are, curiosity should be encouraged, not discouraged. While on the ISS, Chris Hadfield also did much educational outreach to children as well. But how do you get kids to pay attention to someone who is 354 km in the atmosphere? Why the Internet of course. It is wildly easier to get kids to listen when they could actually see someone floating in space, to not just tell them about space, but actually show them space. The various live Q&As Chris Hadfield did with students from space sparked imaginations and made space flight to many kids seem more real. Being influential means changing the way people think and inspiring them, and with all the educational outreach Chris Hadfield accomplished, I would definitely say he qualifies as an influential Canadian.
Canada has made sure that Chris Hadfield’s name does not die anytime soon. Helping to install Canadarm2, performing Canada’s first-ever spacewalk, and being named the first-ever Canadian commander of the ISS, merits him as a true living legend. All of these accomplishments are a huge source of national pride for Canada as it proved that we can indeed contribute to space exploration, and Chris Hadfield has been honored accordingly. He has been awarded several titles such as the Order of Ontario, the Diamond Jubilee Medal, and the Order of Canada, the second-highest honor awarded to any Canadian citizen. He has even been depicted on the $5 bill alongside the Canadarm2 But why are all of these accomplishments such a big deal for Canada you may ask? As mentioned above, the Canadarm2 was vital for the completion of the ISS, making Canada one of the most important contributors to the International Space Station. Chris Hadfield also completed Canada’s first-ever spacewalk and became the first Canadian commander of the ISS. This is an unprecedented feat as not many Canadians get to go to space, and both positions were ones of immense responsibility, and Chris Hadfield being capable of handling these duties with exceptional competence, is a tremendous source of pride. But let’s not forget how Chris Hadfield has inspired so many children to pursue space. His educational outreach showed the wonders of space and proved to many kids that the impossible, is often possible. Through Chris Hadfield, the world has seen Canada’s contribution to an international undertaking, to further push the limits of human capability and science. That pride doesn’t just touch the heart of Canada, but the hearts of nations around the world.
In conclusion, Chris Hadfield certainly had a profound impact on Canada with his contributions to space exploration. By installing the Canadarm2, doing educational outreach to children and the general public, and representing Canada and our space agency, Chris Hadfield has certainly made a lasting impression. His actions have opened the way for a new generation to bear the torch of the brave and become Canada’s next astronauts. With all that he has accomplished, I can confidently say that Chris Hadfield is the most influential Canadian in history. A man of such celebrated stature won’t ever fade from memory, but instead, live on as a true legend.
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