Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield

Updated Mar 11, 2014 at 12:34AM EDT by Brad.  

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Chris Hadfield is a retired Canadian astronaut who is best known for his active social media presence while serving as the commander of the International Space Station (ISS) from December 2012 through May 2013. In addition to his online recognition, Hadfield has received numerous awards and honors during his career over the last two decades.

Online History

In September 2010, the Canadian Space Agency appointed[1] Chris Hadfield as the commander for the 2012 ISS mission known as Expedition 35, becoming the first Canadian ever to command the space station. During his training and leading up to his flight, his sons helped him set up Facebook[2] and Twitter[3] accounts to document his experiences and answer followers’ questions about space. On April 9th, 2011, Hadfield participated in his first Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) thread[8], moderated by one of his sons. In May 2012, The Daily Mail[4] published an article about Hadfield’s Twitter interactions, highlighting several personal photos he had shared during his training including physical preparations (shown below, left) and technology he was working with (shown below, right).

World Tour Photo Challenge

In June 2012, he launched the Chris Hadfield World Tour Photo Challenge[5], asking his followers and fans across the web to either photograph themselves with a printed 2D effigy of Hadfield or photoshop his likeness into digital images of their choice. The contest ran through Hadfield’s return to Earth on May 13th, 2013, during which 866 pictures were submitted by his fans around the world. The winning photo (shown below) was submitted by J.J. Curling Elementary School in Newfoundland Canada and received more than 11,000 viewer votes.

2012 ISS Mission

On December 12th, 2012, Hadfield launched a YouTube channel[6] where he uploaded several videos from his training. The following day, he completed his second Reddit AMA thread[7], which gained more than 23,000 upvotes, 4,100 points overall and 3,300 comments prior to being archived. Days later, on December 19th, 2012, Hadfield boarded the Soyuz ship with his two crew mates Roman Romanenko and Thomas Marshburn for their trip to the ISS.

At the time of his departure from Earth in late December, Hadfield had a modest 20,000 Twitter followers. By January 2013, his follower count had shot up to nearly 200,000, as he began tweeting photos from space and continued to interact with fans and celebrities[9], even launching a Tumblr[14] on January 15th as another outlet for his photography. The astronaut also began to upload YouTube videos to the Canadian Space Agency channel[19] explaining how certain activities, like washing one’s hands or clipping one’s nails, were done in space.[10]Additionally, Hadfield recorded space sounds and uploaded them to his SoundCloud page.[18] In early 2013, his photos were featured on Maclean’s[11],[12] and TIME NewsFeed.[13]

Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit

On February 17th, 2013, Hadfield took part in a third Reddit AMA,[15] which gained more than 46,000 upvotes, 5,100 points overall and 7,600 comments prior to being archived, making it the 11th most popular AMA of all time as of June 2013. Following the AMA, his Twitter follower account had risen to more than 420,000.[16]

Musical Collaboration: “Is Somebody Singing”

In February 2012, Hadfield participated in the first Earth-to-space musical collaboration with Canadian pop group the Barenaked Ladies and the children’s choir, The Wexford Gleeks. The performance consisted of an original song titled "I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing), celebrating music education in Canada.

A Tribute to “Space Oddity”

On May 12th, 2013, the day before his trip back to Earth, Hadfield posted a music video of himself covering David Bowie’s 1969 pop hit “Space Oddity” in the ISS (shown below). As of June 2013, the video has nearly 16 million views.


On June 10th, 2013, Hadfield announced his retirement from the Canadian Space Agency after 35 years of government service, effective July 3rd. Initially revealed with a tweet[17] about saying goodbye to his coworkers, his official announcement was uploaded to YouTube (shown below) on June 12th.

Personal Life

Chris Hadfield was born on August 29th, 1959 in Sarnia, Ontario. He became interested in space when he was nine years old, after seeing the Apollo moon landing on television. After graduating high school, Hadfield joined the Canadian Armed Forces, during which he received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. After excelling in flight training, he served as a tactical fighter pilot, flying intercept missions for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). After serving as an exchange officer with the U.S. Navy, he was selected as one of four Canadians to join the Canadian Space Agency from a field of 5,330 applicants. He worked at Houston’s NASA Johnson Space Center, Russia’s Yuri Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center, and the Aquarius underwater laboratory prior to becoming commander of the ISS. Though he has announced his retirement, he continues to be active on Facebook[2] and Twitter[3], where he has more than 389,000 fans and 1 million followers respectively.

Search Interest

External References

[1]Space Ref Canada – Veteran Astronaut Chris Hadfield Selected as Space Station Expedition 35 Commander

[2]Facebook – Col. Chris Hadfield

[3]Twitter – @Cmdr_Hadfield

[4]The Daily Mail – ‘We wear an absorbent garment underneath’: First Canadian to command the ISS uses Twitter to answer those questions you’ve always wanted to ask

[5]Canadian Space Agency – The Chris Hadfield World Tour Photo Challenge

[6]YouTube – Chris Hadfield’s Channel

[7]Reddit – /r/IAmA: I Am Astronaut Chris Hadfield, Commander of Expedition 35.

[8]Reddit – IAmAn Astronaut who has been to space twice and will be commanding the I.S.S. on Expedition 35. AMA.

[9]Wired UK – The secrets of astronaut Chris Hadfield’s social media success

[10]Babble – The 13 Coolest Things Commander Chris Hadfield Has Done In Space…So Far

[11]Maclean’s – 60 of Chris Hadfield’s photos from orbit: ‘So much of the world’s beauty is simply art itself’

[12] – Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s Amazing Photos of Earth From Space

[13]TIME NewsFeed – PHOTOS: Astronaut Chris Hadfield Tweets Stunning Images from Orbit

[14]Tumblr – Col. Chris Hadfield

[15]Reddit – I Am Astronaut Chris Hadfield, currently orbiting planet Earth.

[16]The Guardian – Chris Hadfield: the superstar astronaut taking social media by storm

[17]Twitter – @Cmdr_Hadfield: To say goodbye to these good people today was much harder than I expected.

[18]SoundCloud – ColChrisHadfield

[19]YouTube – Canadian Space Agency’s Channel

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