VANCOUVER – Astronaut Chris Hadfield has commanded the International Space Station, made three flights into space and orbited the globe more than 2,300 times.
Yet he still spends time marvelling on the small things that put him there, such as the elegant mechanics of a set screw.
“I constantly remind myself that, in fact, this is just a summed example of a whole bunch of tiny little innovations … bolted to each other.”
Canada’s most beloved and quirky space explorer spent more than an hour on Friday galvanizing up-and-coming business leaders to strive to produce innovations that help the world.
Strolling through his audience of about 400, the now retired space traveller orated without notes and snapped selfies with adoring participants after garnering a standing ovation.
Having a broader perspective of the planet than most of the rest of the Earth’s population, the Ontario native told the room he has boiled down a “prime directive” allowing him to determine his daily actions.
“For me it is, how do we improve the standard of living for as many people as possible and make it sustainable?”
He went on to implore the attendees he described as well-educated to set politics aside, urging them to build better forms of energy production, improved communications systems and develop a sense of global vision.
“The business that you folks are in here, the transition from what we do regularly, to what we imagine, to what we can do in the future, absolutely shapes who we are as a nation.”
But the most important goal outside of Earth is bringing down the cost of space travel so more people can take advantage of it, he said.
He lauded billionaire space investors Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson for their on-going, brave attempts, saying he believes the cost of launch will eventually be dropped dramatically and that will play a role in equalizing the world’s population.
For example, it will mean cheap, disposable satellites could be launched into space to create a sky-borne world wide web of connectivity that’s accessible by everyone, he said.
“We need to give every single person on earth the ability to push themselves to their own personal limits, to take advantage of this human capital that exists amongst our species.”
His hope for global co-operation is embodied by observations that countries considered enemies on Earth are still working together in space, such as on the orbiting home for astronauts built by 15 countries.
He decried Russian politics as an “abomination and scourge on the world,” but commended the beleaguered nation for publicly committing to fund its part of the International Space Station for another four years.
Just last month, the Russian space agency publicly announced it would stay onboard until 2024, plans in doubt after Western sanctions related to the annexation of Crimea.
Hadfield called the “media hype” around colonizing Mars “ridiculous,” saying far more invention is required before it’s possible, and also predicted humans will inevitably weaponize space.
“The real question is, how can we overlay the values of combined effort and civilization to suppress some of our natural urges that are self-destructive?”
He refused to express any opinions on the role Canadian politicians play in achieving his vision, saying it’s too easy to blame government for human failures.
Instead, he urged Canadians to take responsibility for their individual actions.
“I want people to make intelligent and informed personal decisions, and stop expecting somebody to do that for them,” he said.
“If what you’re doing is not somehow enabling human potential, then why are you doing it?”
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