Ninety-two minutes after lifting off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Station Col. Chris Hadfield found himself smack-dab over Sarnia.
“I floated to the window and I got the camera ready… I could see the curve of Lake Huron, I could start to see how it was pointing to where Sarnia was,” the first Canadian to walk in space told assembled fans at Bayshore Park last week.
“It’s just gorgeous to get to see it.”
Hadfield’s hometown threw a party last week to celebrate his induction last year into Canada’s Walk of Fame.
The event featured Hadfield and fellow Sarnia native Emm Gryner performing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” reprising a song recorded in orbit that’s been viewed 40 million times on YouTube and helped make Hadfield world famous.
Author and former Dragons’ Den star David Chilton was master of ceremonies, and Mayor Mike Bradley and poet Wali Shah preceded pop rocker and Walk of Fame inductee Andy Kim on stage.
Also in attendance was Olympic champion ice dancer Tessa Virtue, a fellow inductee.
“Fifty years ago this summer was the summer I decided (that) maybe this little Sarnian could have a chance to fly in space,” Hadfield told an appreciative audience.
“I watched the first two people walk on the moon and it allowed me to imagine that just about anything could be possible.
“It sparked the imagination within me that has still never gone out.”
The day was also an early celebration of Hadfield’s 60th birthday on Aug. 29 and featured a special rendition by The Arrogant Worms of the ‘birthday song’, a favourite of Col. Hadfield’s.
A ‘hometown star’ was unveiled that will remain in Sarnia at King George VI School, his old elementary school.
And Canada’s Walk of Fame announced a $10,000 contribution to the Mike Weir Foundation ‘Chip In Challenge,’ which is trying to raise $400,000 for a youth mental health centre in Sarnia.
Hadfield spent 35 years with the Canadian Armed Forces and became a top test pilot. During three space missions he helped build the Russian space station MIR, helped install the Canadarm2, and was the first Canadian to ever float freely in space.
In 2012 he became the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station, responsible for a crew of five.
Today, Hadfield is a professor at the University of Waterloo, leads the Chris Hadfield Generator series at Roy Thompson Hall, and is a New York Times best-selling author.
He speaks around the world and has had numerous things named after him, including the Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport, two elementary schools, a NASA rocket factory, an air squadron, and an asteroid.
He divides his time between Toronto and Sarnia-Lambton where he enjoys life at the family cottage on Stag Island, a place he has called his favourite on earth.