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CELEBRITY TRAVEL CORNER: DOWN TO EARTH WITH CHRIS HADFIELD
 
(2021 - Winter Issue)

Writer: ILONA KAUREMSZKY



David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” reboot by Chris Hadfield has become a pop culture touchstone since that breakout role in 2013 when he strummed the guitar floating in zero gravity aboard the International Space Station. It’s a brilliant moment of a dream realized. His unique rendition of the Starman’s song has since been viewed over 50 million times on YouTube. 

Hadfield has unwittingly become our own cherished ambassador to the stars, and all that’s beyond—a colossal reach he naturally pulls off with modest, casual aplomb. Commander Chris’s dogged determination to actualize personal goals is hard proof that if you apply yourself to an impossible task, dreams can come true … like becoming the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk.

The Spark

Rewind to the summer of ’69. As a nine-year-old boy sitting inside a cottage on Stag Island, Ontario, Hadfield was glued to a flickering black-and-white TV image of the moon landing. That pivotal moment kick-started his outer space dreams, as did his viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Hadfield opines on Facebook made him want to be an astronaut.

The Books

Ever since his groundbreaking launches into orbit (he mastered three space missions circumnavigating earth 2,650 dizzying times)—Colonel Hadfield ("Call me Chris") has stayed in the fast lane, steering a slew of passion projects since he retired from the Canadian Space Agency in 2013. Writing has been among them. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth was his autobiography, which became a bestseller; You are Here was a visual essay; and The Darkest Dark was a popular children’s storybook.

Social Media Star

For the former CSA astronaut who has unabashedly turned into a social media sensation; appeared in a TED Talk, explaining his brush with blindness; and starred in documentaries, talking about his favourite subject: outer space—it’s his newest mission that has him all jazzed up.

The New Chapter

Released in October, The Apollo Murders is the accomplished author’s breakout novel in the twisted world of make-believe where fact muddies fiction.

The Sarnia-born author admits that this outer space subject presented a unique set of challenges which gave him the most fun, creating the sci-fi thriller. “I had to take a recreational reading pastime and turn it into actual study,” he relays on novel writing. 

Hadfield not surprisingly did smart things for the prep. He watched James Patterson’s MasterClass on writing a bestselling book; read Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing; reread bestselling classics like Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal and Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle; and invested sweat equity, initially churning out a 195,000-word book before the editors trimmed out the fat.  

The Apollo Murders is a weirdly twisted techno-thriller that takes place in the helter-skelter ’70s when Bowie morphed into Ziggy Stardust, and Pink Floyd released The Dark Side of the Moon. It was the blood-soaked decade of Vietnam raging and the superpowers locked in a space race, and brands like Timex interrupting a new TV show called The Six Million Dollar Man starring Lee Majors as ex-NASA astronaut Steve Austin.

His psycho-thriller page-turner packs in space spies, international espionage, a superpowers space race war that rages on the moon and more villains. Nothing is black and white between combative American and Russian astronauts who wage a war on the moon as they compete for firsts and then some (without giving away spoiler alerts). Hadfield’s fertile imagination fuses fact and fiction through nail-biting scenes often sculpted from true events. The Apollo Murders goes beyond a good old-fashioned murder mystery. The bestselling author touches on sticky subject matters grappling the 21st century: racism, economic disparity, physical disabilities, feminism, geopolitics, alternative energy and hi-tech surveillance, giving readers much to ponder.

DREAMASCAPES caught up with Chris Hadfield in August

DS: What’s the initial response been like to your new book?

CH:  It’s been surreal. Frederick Forsyth has written a recommendation on The Apollo Murders, that’s down from the mountaintop for me. James Patterson, same thing. He says it is one of the two books he really recommends this year. And Jim Cameron, who tells stories so well in the movie genre and writes them. I have huge respect for all those writers.

DS: Over the summer, we watched space tourism launch. There was Virgin Galactic by Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Thoughts?

CH: I’m on the advisory board to Virgin Galactic. We are just at the cusp of space flight being safe enough and simple enough in the very first time in human history that maybe it starts to be cost effective enough that it could become a tourism business, and that’s incredible!

DS: Please share a space travel tip for us earthlings.

CH: A really important tip for space travel is “Don’t miss it!” Don’t get wrapped up in procedures, and details. Don’t spend the whole time with a camera stuck in front of you because that blocks almost everything. You have five senses and not just some digital recorder. 

DS: What’s your go-to space food?

CH: A spicy, sharp shrimp cocktail. When you live without gravity your sinuses never drain. I think your taste buds and smelling receptors are all clogged so only the tanginess and sharpest of flavours break their way through.

DS: Will space tourists get a good sleep in space?

CH: When space tourism does get good enough I think that will be one of the big joys for people is weightless sleep. It will be the ultimate sleep spa. You don’t need a mattress. You don’t even need a pillow. You can relax every muscle in your body and drift off to effortless sleep.

DS: So are you pleased with your book?

CH: I’m delighted with the whole process, so much so that I’m into researching for the next book now. It’s a wonderful new thing that I could never have counted on.

 
 
 
 
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