Hadfield calls rocket explosion tragic but not surprising

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on October 30, 2014

Former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield chalks up Tuesday’s rocket explosion as part of the trial and error involved in the complex International Space Station operation.

“Space flight is hard – way harder than people think and it’s still new,’’ says Hadfield, who was visiting P.E.I. Thursday.

“And anything with that much energy is not always going to work the way you expect.’’

That was the case with the Antares rocket that exploded after its launch in Virginia, marking the first big failure in NASA’s campaign to resupply the ISS using low-cost commercial cargo ships.

Hadfield, who became the first Canadian to command the ISS in 2013, says the setback simply calls for solving technical problems and making better vehicles in the future.

“It’s a tragedy when it happens but it’s not like you can pretend it’s never going to happen,’’ he says.

“This is a complex business.’’

Hadfield says fortunately resupplying the ISS is not reliant on a single spaceship operator.

“The United States has two unmanned vehicles to go up there and the Russians have one and the Japanese have one and the Europeans have one,’’ says Hadfield.

“So there’s lots of other ways to get supplies and equipment up on board.’’

Hadfield marvels at the challenges that are regularly overcome in operating a space station that took 10 years and more than 30 missions to assemble – a place where people have been living for the past 14 years.

He says with 15 nations involved in the ISS, serious arguments constantly arise over politics, finances and territory.

And yet all the countries manage to pull together when looking at the big picture, he adds.

“And to me that’s a wonderful example of it you give people sort of a goal that rises above themselves – if you give them a complex but shared desire – then that will trump the transient politics and the transient electoral cycles and the ups and downs of the economy and it has proven to do that,’’ he says.

“It’s a tremendous success story…and Canada has been pivotal in the whole thing.’’



Former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield walks near Province House with Wayne Hambly, chairman of the Confederation Centre of the Arts, during a busy visit to P.E.I. Tuesday. 

©Guardian photo by Jim Day