Dylan Poon

"Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you"

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Independent Novel Study Speech: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

On July 20th, 1969, the first astronauts touched down on the moon, changing the distant, unknowable orb in the sky into one of humanity’s greatest achievements. The historic moon landing inspired many people, including a young Canadian boy from a small town, who then set their sights on the stars. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is an autobiography by Chris Hadfield about the path to becoming an astronaut, outlining the struggles and successes of his journey. By reading Hadfield’s story, we come to realize that a core value that defines Canadian Identity is to face the adversities that block us from our goals.

Chris Hadfield was born on August 29th, 1959 in Sarnia where he grew up on a corn farm with his siblings. After watching the moon landing, he became determined to become an astronaut, aware that if Canada had a space agency, his odds would still be impossibly small. Chris returned to school from his summer break, reinvigorated with his aspirations, realizing that even the small decisions he made now mattered in the future. As he grew, he was thrown into enrichment programs, learning to think “more critically and analytically, to question rather than to simply get the right answers” (4). His high education, partnered with his values in hard work, carried him past the challenges he faced and straight into Air Cadets, a pre-requisite for becoming an astronaut.

At the time, the Canadian Government had not started up a new space agency, but Chris still pursued his goal. Now 19, Hadfield learned how to fly planes and enrolled in a military college, since the “route to NASA was via the military” (6). A few years later after graduating from the college, Chris got married, still persisting towards his goal. He moved with his family from Ontario to Saskatchewan, beginning jet training with the Canadian Army. However, moving was hard; a recession hung the threat of bankruptcy over their heads. Although flying planes was a step along the path to Chris’ final goal, he saw it as a learning opportunity and persisted through the toughest of times. However, knowing that his chances were still improbable, he made sure to avoid hanging all his self worth on his dream, but still pursued it for the ‘just in case’ scenario.

The year was 1983, and luckily for Chris, his chances for fulfilling his life-long dream went from nothing, to a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel; Canada had opened the Canadian Space Agency and selected it’s first six astronauts. Chris kept flying fighter jets for the military but began to worry about his road taken. The first astronauts chosen by the CSA were all scientists, not pilots. He had already committed to the traditional American path to becoming an astronaut, and there was no going back. Thinking into the future, Chris decided to complete a master’s degree in aviation systems at the University of Tennessee, just in case the CSA began to hire again.

The CSA posted an ad in the newspaper: Astronauts Wanted. Chris scrambled to assemble a resume; his chance at a life-long dream had dropped from unlikely to a 1 in 5329 chance. Five months after submitting, 1 in 500. Then 1 in 100. 1 in 50. 20. 10. After an intense selection process and months of radio silence, Chris received a call from the CSA, asking if he wanted to be an astronaut.

By reading Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, we learn about the life of a boy with a dream who tells us that as Canadians, we can persist and face our challenges to achieve our goals. With hard-work and perseverance, Chris Hadfield showed the world that the 9-year-old boy who stared into the sky on that fateful night was not just a dreamer, but a dreamer with an iron will.

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