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Astronaut Chris Hadfield celebrates 20 years in space today

NASA Crew James Halsell, Kenneth Cameron, William McArthur, Jerry Ross, and Chris Hadfield in 1995
NASA Crew James Halsell, Kenneth Cameron, William McArthur, Jerry Ross, and Chris Hadfield in 1995

My goodness, how time flies.

It was 20 years ago today, November 12, 1995, that Commander Chris Hadfield made his very first trip into space, on the way to Mir with a team of NASA astronauts.

Hadfield was the first Canadian to walk in space and eventually served as commander of the International Space Station.

He also humanized being an astronaut more successfully than almost anyone else, tweeting from space, covering a David Bowie song, and engaging in a dialogue with William Shatner.

A few hours after lifting off from Cape Canaveral in 1995, he snapped a photo of Sarnia from low orbit. Not a digital photo, since the format didn’t exist at the time, but a real actual photo consisting of emulsion on a photographic negative, which the space adventurer would have to wait to have processed when he got back to Earth.

Sarnia from space, photographed by Chris Hadfield in 1995. Forwarded by Mayor Mike Bradley to the Sarnia Journal.
Sarnia from space, photographed by Chris Hadfield in 1995. Forwarded by Mayor Mike Bradley to the Sarnia Journal.

The image, forwarded to the Sarnia Journal by the town’s mayor Mike Bradley, shows the southern end of Lake Huron emptying into the St. Clair River, with Port Huron and Sarnia in the centre.

Hadfield grew up on a farm in the area and attended King George VI elementary school in Sarnia.

Six years later, for his second trip into space, he took another picture of Sarnia. Both images still hang in Mayor Bradley’s office.

For his third trip in 2012, Hadfield decided to take yet another Sarnia photo, telling local paper The Observer, “I am absolutely going to do my best for Mayor Bradley and for my fellow citizens of Sarnia to get a good, updated picture of the town. And hopefully this time it won’t be such a rush because I’m in space long enough that I’ll even be able to get different seasonal pictures. I won’t have to just force it with the weather I have.”

Bradley, for his part, made an effort to have as many lights on in Sarnia for Hadfield’s photograph as possible.

Hadfield doesn’t make these trips to space merely to photograph Sarnia, of course. On that second trip in 2001, he delivered and installed the Canadarm2 at the International Space Station.

When he wasn’t busy becoming the most relatable man in outer space, Hadfield published a remarkable book of photographs, titled You Are Here, depicting world landmarks other than Sarnia, including Venice, the “Eye of the Sahara” in Mauritania, the Himalaya Mountains, and the Nile River.

He also released an album of songs, partially recorded in space, called Space Sessions: Songs from a Tin Can.

“Even though I’ve been to 50 countries, I’ve been around the world hundreds of times … Sarnia really makes me feel like home,” Hadfield told The Observer. “So it is a special place in my heart.”

In 2013, after a 21-year career in space, Hadfield announced his retirement.

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