Looking to the future with modern-day explorers

Laurie Snider
Notes from the Nest

Five, four, three, two, one… lift off! I can’t even begin to imagine, how it must feel to be strapped tightly inside a rocket, with tons of fuel churning and burning beneath it, blasting off a launch pad and hurtling towards space.

There was a movie made in the 1980s, called The Right Stuff, about astronauts. I have no difficulty admitting, I don’t possess it. Never have. Never will. Thankfully, others do.

Last Thursday evening was date night and Randy and I spent an agreeable few hours listening to a talk by retired, Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield. My goodness, what a fascinating, accomplished, personable, inspirational man!

He was born in Sarnia, Ont. and raised on a farm, near Milton. He started as an Air Cadet, joining the Canadian Forces in 1978. He was top pilot, while training in Manitoba and Moose Jaw, Sask. and became a fighter pilot, flying Canada’s F5s and F18s. He received his bachelor’s degree from Royal Military College and a masters of science in aviation, from the University of Tennessee. Safe to say, he’s one smart cookie!

His lecture was compelling. He’s flown over 70 types of aircraft, not the least of which, were two space shuttles, in 1995 and 2001. He also did a five-month stint aboard the International Space Station. He became the first Canadian to command the station, during the second half of his stay. He’s spent 166 days in space, traveled 99.8 million kilometres, and completed 2,336 orbits of the earth. Wow!

Hadfield’s presentation took us on a road-trip, from how the Earth began, as a roiling ball of fire, to how the continents formed, the first sparks of life, up to the evolution of humans. It was fascinating! This led to  how Canada itself became populated and how we grew into the country we’re familiar with today.

His theme was, how we’ve evolved and succeeded by “people imaging things, that didn’t exist before,” and how we need to keep on doing that. He gave countless examples of people, throughout history who’ve overcome enormous obstacles, to solve real world difficulties, from the elements, disease, food production, to the most urgent problem of today: Climate change. Of course, climate change is ongoing but the thinkers of today are hard at work, looking for solutions.

One of these great thinkers, is Elon Musk. Musk, 46, grew up in South Africa. As a child, he was viciously bullied but that didn’t hold him back. He concentrated on his studies and was a top student. When he was 17 years old, he became a Canadian citizen (his mother is Canadian) and attended Queens , for two years. He transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned two degrees, in economics and physics.

He’s since gone on to found and run several top-level companies, including PayPal, Solar City, Tesla (the electric car and solar panel manufacturer) and SpaceX. He also has companies dealing with Artificial Intelligence, the Boring tunnel company and a Hyperloop company, which envisions a new form of high speed transportation.

Musk is also the visionary, who’s planning to send the first manned mission to Mars by 2024 and establish a human colony on the little, red planet, by 2040.

His goals are lofty, wishing to change the world and humanity, by reducing global warming through producing sustainable energy. Perhaps, if somehow you found yourself stuck in a snowbank, earlier in February, you missed the launch of his Falcon Heavy Rocket. It’s the most powerful rocket ever launched! It was some impressive!

After sending the rocket merrily on its way, two of the three boosters landed back on Earth, precisely onto launch pads. Awesome! Straight out of a science fiction movie! As if that weren’t enough, his rocket sent his red Tesla Roadster, complete with an astronaut suit-wearing dummy, named Starman, out into space, to roam the starry roads of the universe. It’s playing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” on a continuous loop!

Humanity needs dreamers and enthusiasts, like Hadfield and Musk. These brilliant scholars and voyageurs, give us hope for a better future. They’re the pioneers of our day and I’ve the utmost respect and admiration for them.

When answering the question of a youngster, who asked what it takes to become an astronaut, Hadfield had sage advice. He advised taking care of your body, with good food and exercise, studying hard, with a plan to keep on learning and finishing what you start.

His final piece of advice was, don’t wait until you’re in a rocket ship, flying around the world, to be happy. Find reasons to be happy, everyday. It’s doubtful, I’ll ever find myself flying around in a rocket ship but putting that aside, I can definitely take his advice to heart, beginning with date night!

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