Column: The Space Blogger

On May 12, 2013, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, captivated the internet world with a musical tribute to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” played in commemoration of completing Expedition 35 on the International Space Station (ISS), a journey lasting 144 days and spanning 62 million miles. Throughout the duration of the mission, Hadfield has balanced a rigorous program of scientific inquiry with an active level of involvement in new media and the internet.

Hadfield’s social media presence is both entertaining and educational, with blog posts, tweets and videos chronicling the difficulties of living in space, stunning photography of the planet and even original music describing the feelings of a life at 7,706.6 meters per second.

With over 900,000 Twitter followers and one of the most successful Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) threads ever to appear on Reddit, Hadfield has been called one of the most social media-savvy astronauts on off the planet.

Hadfield’s videos, like those from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, do a great educational service by explaining principles such as chemical cohesion of water molecules behaving in a vacuum independent of gravity. One of the amazing things is that millions of people are independently electing to learn about science by clicking the links to Hadfield’s videos.

Col. Hadfield’s illustrious career represents something fantastic for future generations of aspiring scientists: human inspiration. A generation is once again reminded that the pursuit of knowledge, be it in space or elsewhere, is an endeavor full of life and passion. Most importantly, his media presence helps demonstrate that a life dedicated to science and knowledge can be vibrant and full of personality.

When man first walked on the moon, a planet was captivated by the marvels that could be achieved through engineering. Since then, while space launches have been publicized, without the participation in internet media, people have grown apathetic toward space exploration. Programs dedicated toward advances in space exploration have been deemed by some in these troubled economic times as trivial or a waste of money. While all industries should inevitably cut some fat out of their budgets, the exploration of possibly beneficial avenues for our species could at least service a passing interest beyond dismissal and cynicism.

With new advances in sustainability and material science, space exploration is even more possible, and with current Earth-centric trends like pollution and resource scarcity, there is a greater importance of looking to the stars for potential answers.

The road to space is constantly being paved on new inventions and understandings. Lightweight and efficient filtration systems are being developed from emerging materials to treat water with molecular precision. Innovations in alternative and sustainable energy are becoming more and more efficient at providing stable, renewable power. Moreover, a better understanding of emitted radiation from pulsars provides scientists with the framework for a potential universal positioning system.

The field of space exploration is still very much in its infancy. We’re a long ways away from anything, really. The closest planets usually exist about a hundred million kilometers from Earth and the closest star to our own is several light-years away. In all seriousness though, the technologies necessary to bridge these extreme distances are still very much in development, and it is fortunate for the field to have personalities like Hadfield’s captivating young minds and inspiring them to look up to help find answers.

ALAN LIN looks up for inspiration. He can be reached at science@theaggie.org.

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