13 May 2013

To earth with love… Twitter astronaut returning home

The world’s first “social media astronaut” returns to earth as Channel 4 News tracks the story of Commander Hadfield’s out-of-this-world tweets.

You may not have heard of 53-year-old Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield until this week when his X-Factor-worthy rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity (see video below) was not only beamed down from the International Space Station (ISS), but beamed around the world via TV networks, the internet and social media.

The lyrics to Bowie’s ode to space exploration describe the other-worldly experiences of Major Tom, a fictional astronaut: “Here am I sitting in a tin can far above the world. Planet earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.”

I’ll be sad that my Twitter feed will suddenly become devoid of easily the most interesting and insightful tweets I’ve seen in a long time. Liam Dutton, Channel 4 News weather presenter

Commander Hadfield, who has spent the last five months running the ISS, tweeted: “With deference to the genius of David Bowie, here’s Space Oddity, recorded on Station. A last glimpse of the World.”

Bowie’s official account replied: “Hallo Spaceboy.”

And while the ISS could hardly be described as a “tin can” after 146 days on the ISS, @Cmdr_Hadfield is returning home not a space oddity, but a space celebrity.

As he whizzes through space at a speed of around five miles per second, experiencing sixteen sunrises and sunsets each day, he’s become a literal global star during the last six months, writes Weather Presenter Liam Dutton.

Commander Chris Hadfield has found a place in so many people’s hearts having shared some truly amazing pictures, videos and experiences during his time aboard the International Space Station.

From how an astronaut brushes their teeth in the absence of gravity, to a mesmerising view of the moon rising from the blackness of space behind our planet – he’s taken what would normally be considered geeky science and made it interesting and accessible to everyone. Early on Tuesday, he returns to earth.

Whilst I’ll be happy to see his safe return, I’ll be sad that my Twitter feed will suddenly become devoid of easily the most interesting and insightful tweets I’ve seen in a long time.

And, as the International Space Station passes over the UK again in a few weeks, it won’t be quite the same knowing that when we all wave up, he won’t be aboard to wave back.

Chris Hadfield returns to earth a social media hero.

‘Surreal beauty’

It began as a cult fanbase but now Hadfield commands nearly a million followers, thanks to his nightly tweets showing stunning images of the earth from above.

His posts have included awe-inspiring photos of deserts, cities, the northern lights, mountain ranges and little things like “clear skies from Cardiff to Belfast to Edinburgh to London” which, from time-to-time have helped followers on earth get a little more perspective about whose turn it is to put out the bins.

He claims his posts are purely fact-based, but many of Commander Hadfield’s tweets show a philosophical side which has undoubtedly increased his popularity.

He has tweeted about Syria – “peaceful from such a distance” – and the “surreal beauty” of the earth from space. He has sent down Valentine tweets, Jackson Pollock references and posts about “Dr Seuss swirls” in the Black Sea.

Add to this, his regular requests for earthlings to “wave” and his YouTube videos explaining what it is like trying to play Scrabble, brush one’s teeth or cry in space – and it’s clear a star man has been born.

Here are some of the best of Commander Hadfield’s tweets from 200 miles high….


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