Chris Hadfield speaking at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. Photo: Katie Swyers

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield speaks and sings at Ryerson

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By Anika Syeda 

Canadian astronaut and cultural icon Chris Hadfield visited Ryerson University on Friday evening.

The former captain of the International Space Station (ISS) addressed a crowd of Ryerson students and other visitors at an event hosted by the George Vari Innovation Conference (GVIC).

The event was co-produced by the Ryerson Leadership Lab, Ryerson Engineering Students Society and the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science.

Hadfield walked the audience through his life’s journey; from his love of comic books growing up on a corn farm in Southern Ontario, making history in 1995 as the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm as well as becoming the first Canadian to walk in space in 2001. 

His presentation was punctuated with occasional jokes. A photograph of Hadfield as a toddler piloting a cardboard box contrasted a photograph of Hadfield as commander of the ISS drew a collective laugh from the audience.

Hadfield drew another laugh when he pointed out to the audience that while the myth that the Great Wall of China could be seen from space was untrue, “you can see the 407 [highway]” from the space station.

The speech also highlighted the pinnacle of his career as an astronaut. Hadfield, the first Canadian man to walk in space, described wading through the aurora borealis while on his spacewalk. This was accompanied by footage of the aurora borealis from space, to give the audience some idea of what it would look like.

While not everybody will walk through an aurora, the focus of Hadfield’s presentation was his beliefs about the success that he felt applied to everybody.

“Early success is a terrible teacher,” he said. “Early failure is what you want.” The astronaut said he believes that early failure enables people to learn from their mistakes.


GVIC delegate and third-year business management student Dhara Trivedi described her experience during the event as “emotional”. She said there were several moments that “were so awesome, I couldn’t help wanting to cry.”

Hadfield also moved fourth-year marketing student Justin Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe described his biggest takeaway from the speech as “the understanding that ‘impossible is possible’”.

“Every day, feats of human ingenuity are accomplished, that was once believed to be impossible,” he said. “It allowed me to understand that the ambitious goals I look to achieve are possible so long as I believe them to be.”

Those who had paid $150 for VIP tickets had the chance to meet the astronaut after his speech.

However, the entire audience experienced a live performance of Hadfield’s famous rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” with a medley of his original song, “Is Somebody Singing”.

His cover of “Space Oddity” was created and first performed on the ISS, making it the first music video filmed in space. It currently has over 41 million views on YouTube.

During his presentation, Hadfield said, “Your life is not the announcement. Your life is what you make it.”

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