Adjunct professor and retired astronaut Chris Hadfield was awarded the Order of Canada in a ceremony presided over by Gov. Gen. David Johnston Nov. 18. As chancellor and principal companion of the Order of Canada, Johnston inducted Hadfield as an officer of the Order of Canada. </p>
The ceremony, which took place at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, brought together a total of 45 inductees. Based on his citation, Hadfield was recognized for his continued dedication to Canadian aeronautics and for “creat[ing] renewed interest in scientific discovery.”
“Well personally, of course it’s the highest honour to be recognized at that level by my country, a country that I served away from for 26 years,” said Hadfield.
The Order of Canada was established in 1967 by Queen Elizabeth II. As their website describes, this award “recognizes people in all sectors of Canadian society. Their contributions are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and made a difference to this country.” Since 1967, over 6,000 Canadians have been recognized. The officer merit recognizes “national service or achievement.”
In 1978, Hadfield joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, starting a career as a pilot that would last 26 years. During this time, Hadfield worked with multiple defence organizations within North America. As a result, he spent much of that time away from Canada, serving throughout North America and in Russia.
In total, Hadfield has been to space on three different missions and was the first Canadian to walk in space. In December 2012, he became the commander of the International Space Station, where he made multiple educational videos, often documenting the process of completing everyday tasks done on Earth, but in space. Notably, Hadfield also filmed the first music video in space, titled Space Oddity — a cover of David Bowie’s song of the same title.
Reflecting on the ceremony, Hadfield acknowledged that the presence of the other recipients can at times overwhelm personal excitement.
“When someone’s giving you the Order of Canada, it’s a big event and you travel and you get out of your schedule and you go to Rideau Hall. There’s all sort of trappings of it and it keeps you busy, but what it actually turns out to be is a chance to sit and watch 45 other people win the Order of Canada, and every single one of them is such a wonderful human being,” said Hadfield. “To be able to meet those people and see them being recognized, I think outstrips the fact that you yourself are there. I think its just a wonderful reminder of the goodness of people.”
Hadfield’s curiosity in space and desire to be an astronaut started at the age of nine after watching the Apollo 11 moon landing. His education, while in high school and post-secondary focused upon that desire. Eventually Hadfield came to the University of Waterloo, where he was a part of a mechanical engineering graduate studies program.
“Nobody sets out to win the Order of Canada, … and that’s the beauty of it I think. It’s been around almost 50 years, but it is the unintended recognition of a lifetime of success and service. And the fact that its not something that people aspire to but are just recognized with, I think makes it doubly significant.”
In Oct. 2013, after his retirement, Hadfield took on a teaching role on campus, holding occasional lectures for the faculties of science, environment, and applied health sciences. He is currently on a three-year contract.
“I’m happy with the role that I’m allowed and to teach in various faculties,” Hadfield said. “I think there are lessons I’ve learned during my life and opportunities that I’ve had that are worth sharing with students in each one of those faculties. So far so good, I very much enjoy it.”
Johnston was also partly responsible for Hadfield’s arrival as a professor at UW.
“The person that original invited me back was the governor general when he was at Waterloo and we opened the aviation program back several years ago. It was David Johnston who invited me at sometime to come and be a professor at Waterloo,” Hadfield explained.
As time goes on, Hadfield is hoping to expand his role on campus.
“I’m hoping in the future as life settles down, it’ll become an even bigger part of my life, that I’ll have more time to teach and work with students at the university,” said Hadfield. Although he is also planning to do more than teaching, eventually Hadfield hopes to enrol in classes as well as audit them.
“It takes a long time just to get settled back and organized and I’m trying to do as many useful things as I can, but I’m hoping, over the next several years, my role at Waterloo will slowly increase.”
Outside of his involvement at UW, Hadfield is involved in multiple projects, from an animated series to producing music to writing novels and assisting in charity projects.
When asked how he’s managing so many commitments, Hadfield laughed. “Barely,” he said, adding that his ability to be committed to so many projects is the product of teamwork, all of whom work together to help him make decisions that “make the most sense that meet my objectives for the things I want to accomplish.”
Successfully managing multiple projects, as Hadfield explains, comes only with balance.
“Its worth doing yourself the favour, no matter who you are, of sitting down and making a list of the 15 things you really enjoy in life, the things that give you at the end of the day a sense of being a quality person,” Hadfield said. “Look at how you’re dividing up your life to see how many of those you’re managing to incorporate and how many of those you’re working into your life and there’s great joy in doing work well and great joy in accomplishing and learning new things.”
Speaking to the students at UW, Hadfield wants students to consider educational opportunity they are able to access.
“This isn’t a right, but it is a tremendous opportunity and a privilege… Glean everything you can from it,” Hadfield said. “The majority of the young people in the world do not have that opportunity, no matter how smart they are or how hard they’ve worked in their previous schools.”