Chris Hadfield on Tim Peake’s fear and loathing

The ex-astronaut on Tim Peake’s fears in space, and why he won’t miss Planet Earth.

Tim Peake British astronaut-principia Loaded
Meat Tim Peake says he will look forward to a “bacon sarnie” aboard the ISS, but Chris Hadfield says he’ll be too busy to miss a thing. Image Picture UK Space Agency (Max Alexander). Star City, Moscow.

Tim Peake said that he’ll look forward to a “bacon sarnie” once aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as well as a beer once he returns to Earth. But former astronaut Chris Hadfield says that, once in orbit, Peake won’t miss a thing.

Hadfield became world famous with his cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity which he performed aboard the ISS in 2012 in his third and final space flight before he retired. 

Despite being famed for doing mundane tasks in space such as playing the guitar, beaming back videos of his cosmic kitchen and – less appealingly – clipping his fingernails, Hadfield says that once you‘re off planet Earth, your concept of life entirely changes.

“In truth, you don’t really miss anything in space,” he tells Loaded. “I spent half a year off the planet and I never felt myself wistfully wishing I was back on Earth.

“It’s like if you’re skiing down Chamonix. You’re in the midst of something magnificent, so you don’t really miss anything.”

Chris Hadfield Canadian astronaut Space Oddity Loaded
Major Tom Hadfield is famous for his Space Oddity cover performed aboard the ISS. Image Photo NASA

Hadfield explained how lift-off is both the realisation of a lifetime’s work and one of the most physically demanding experiences any human can ever go through.

“The vehicle is immensely powerful. It will accelerate and crush you down to four times your wait for minute after minute after minute,” he explains. “You sense the immense power of this human invention as it’s taking you many, many times faster than any bullet has ever travelled.

“You can feel as it changes engines, there’s a perceptible swap in acceleration, deceleration and then bang! On comes the next set. You’re hurled around but you’re working your way through all the checks, being ready for what could go wrong.

“Then finally, just under nine minutes in, the engines shut off, and you’re weightless.

“It’s an amazing ride, but then the real game begins as that’s just the start. That’s the first eight minutes 55 seconds of six months in space. It’s the riskiest thing I did in my whole life, yet it was magnificent. My face hurt because I was smiling so much.”

Starman Bowie described this version of Space Oddity as the greatest ever performance of the song.

As well as having gone through hours of checks aboard the Soyuz rocket launched Peake and his team into space this morning, the British astronaut will have gone through a sequence of medical checks to ensure he won’t take any bacteria up to the ISS.

Peake will also have had two enemas, meaning his system will be entirely clear in case the team have to spend any emergency time on the Soyuz before docking at the ISS this evening.

Despite the dangers involved in space travel – with Hadfield explaining that his chance of death when he launched was a chilling 1 in 38 – Hadfield says Peake won’t have felt fear about lift-off. “There’s a difference between fear and danger,” he says. “What all astronauts do is learn to appreciate the danger and recognise how to behave in the face of it.”

However, Hadfield did reveal what he feels Peake’s main fear will be. “You’re much more worried about not having the chance to launch than you are over launch itself,” he explains. “He’ll be more apprehensive that there’ll be a problem with the rocket or a medical problem that will keep him from going.”

Stargazing Live is on BBC2 tonight, 7:00pm

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Loaded reporter Robert McCallum has written for many leading culture magazines and websites about music, sport, science, politics, fashion and arts. Follow Robert at @therobmccallum

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