Muskens: Will Canada’s own Rocket Man inspire next generation?

You really can be just about anything you want to be.

On July 21, 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.

That same year, in every neighbourhood in the country, kids would tell you they wanted to grow up and be an astronaut.

It was a career everyone was talking about.

But the space industry changed after that and many of those kids moved on into other professions, except for Chris Hadfield, who was nine-years-old when the famous moonwalk occurred.

He obviously never gave up on his dream and showed us all that a kid from Canada who wanted to be an astronaut could do just that.

So what does it take to be an astronaut?

Years ago you had to be either American or Russian but that doesn’t seem to matter as much these days.

Based on what astronauts do, it is a profession that requires a combination of understanding science and engineering, in both theory and application, along with the ability and desire to fly very fast aircrafts while sitting in a small area without getting motion sickness.

This is why most people who go into the field can stand a lot of rides at the amusement park and usually start in the air force and shift between flight training and university.

After spending some time in his youth as a cadet, Hadfield joined the Canadian Armed Forces after he graduated from high school.

Later on he enrolled in the Royal Military College and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Although he got a university education, his applied education comes from a number of distinct jet training opportunities through the Canadian Forces. This included flight experience in the 410 Tactical Fighter Operational Training Squadron, Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter, and the McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet.

Opportunities opened up for him when he went to the United States and attended the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and then in the early 1990s enrolled in the University of Tennessee Space Institute. From this school he graduated with a masters degree in aviation systems.

It was this combination of education and training that helped Hadfield when he was chosen to be one of four Canadians assigned by the Canadian Space Agency (CSP) to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in Houston.

His career with CSP and NASA has been varied and culminated with the opportunity to be the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station in which he led Expedition 35 leaving Earth on December 19, 2012 and returning just last week on May 13, 2013.

He captured us online by using social media to bring outer space into our lives way beyond the grainy black and white film footage of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon almost 24 years ago.

Hadfield ended his journey with a well-done version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity—if Armstrong had the same opportunity in 1969 he might have considered the same song which Bowie wrote after watching Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey.

Few of us will forget Chris Hadfield, just like so many of us kids from the 1960s who never forgot Neil Armstrong.

Will Hadfield have the same impact Armstrong did and will more kids today now want grow up and be astronauts?