Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Astronaut tells of space Christmas

Astronaut Chris Hadfield told pupils how he celebrated Christmas in space

Celebrated astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield has told how being in orbit last year did not prevent him from celebrating a traditional Christmas.

The Canadian famed for chronicling life aboard the International Space Station via social media told pupils at an Edinburgh school how his temporary home was decked out with stockings and a tree - hanging from the ceiling.

Students at Liberton High School were captivated by the astronaut's tales, including the difficulty of tying a shoe lace in space and the delights of rehydrated pizza slices for dinner.

They quizzed the Commander on what he missed most in space - being around his family - and how astronauts celebrate Christmas.

He said: "We had stockings that we hung up around the space station and we had a Christmas tree hanging down from the ceiling.

"We had a guitar up there so we sang Christmas carols.

"It was nice - it wasn't a normal Christmas but it was sort of like Christmas."

The 54-year-old returned from his final space mission earlier this year, after serving as Commander of the International Space Station.

He became an internet hit with his cover of David Bowie's Space Oddity recorded in space.

The clip has had 19 million views on YouTube and he has more than a million Twitter followers.

Head teacher Stephen Kelly told students: "I think he's the most famous astronaut in the world, particularly famous for promoting science through social media while being on the Space Station.

"I also think he took the world's best 'selfie' from orbit, with the planet earth behind him."

First Minister Alex Salmond, who attended the event, said it was a thrill to hear the Commander talk about his experiences.

He said: "I think it's interesting anyway to meet someone who has done something so spectacular, but for anybody who has got an interest in astronomy, and in science fiction like I have, it's a great thrill."

He added: "Part of the argument of getting more youngsters into science is providing the inspiration, the role model which makes people want to do it.

"I think you've seen a great example today."

Physics teacher Graham Crawford, curriculum leader of science at Liberton, said: "In class we've been watching Commander Hadfield's videos on YouTube and the excitement has been really building in the school, it's been great."

The Commander told students that his own ambition to go into space began as a child.

He said: "To be in between the universe and the world is a beautiful and humbling place to be.

"It's something I dreamed about since I was a little kid and it was an amazing thing to be a part of.

"It gave me a whole new perspective on the world."

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