Students at Zorra Highland Park Public School near Embro were encouraged to follow their dreams on Tuesday, May 7, during a presentation by someone who spent his high school years living not far from their school, and who certainly made the best of following his dreams.
The day after being at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto taking part in an interactive spaceship-to-Earth session with International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield (Hadfield has since completed his mission as Commander and returned to Earth), Major Jeremy Hansen visited Zorra Highland to talk about his work as a Canadian Space Agency astronaut. Hansen was born in London but attended Ingersoll District Collegiate Institute following a family move.
By age 17, he had both his glider and private pilot licenses after getting involved in the Air Cadet program when he was 12. This experience led to his acceptance at the Collège militaire royal in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.
Following graduation, he advanced through the ranks to become a CF-18 fighter pilot in the Canadian Air Force. Then, in May of 2009, Major Hansen was selected as one of two Canadians to join a new team of trainees at NASA in Houston, Texas.
Training to eventually travel into space is obviously a dominant part of his job. But, like Hadfield, he also welcomes the role of making connections with the public regarding the Canadian Space Agency program. During his short visit to Oxford County, he not only visited Zorra Highland, but also shared his knowledge and experiences with students at two schools in Ingersoll.
The previous day, Monday May 6, Hansen had been at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, talking to schoolchildren and other visitors who experienced a unique musical collaboration. It was part of something called “Music Monday,” and it featured Hadfield — an accomplished musician — performing via satellite alongside Ed Robertson of rock band Barenaked Ladies (Robertson was there, in person, in the Science Centre) and a school choir from Toronto. Hadfield and Robertson co-wrote the song that was performed.
Little did anyone know at the time, however, that Hadfield’s music-from-space endeavour would be upstaged (at least in terms of social media attention) only a few days later by ... himself — with a little (okay, a lot) of help from St. Marys musician Emm Gryner.
Gryner and Hadfield both grew up in the Sarnia area. Over the years, they have invited each other to collaborate musically. When Hadfield rocketed to the Space Station in December, 2012 (he began his stint as Commander in March of this year), he again sent out the invitation to Gryner to consider a way to collaborate while he orbited the Earth. As Gryner explains on her online blog (http://emmgryner. com/emmbassy/?q=node/861), they eventually decided to try a cover version of David Bowie’s 1969 space travel hit Space Oddity.
Early in her career, Gryner had worked on a Bowie tour, and agreed to send out the request to the English star. Her blog provides an interesting explanation of the recording process.
“I was mostly blown away by how pure and earnest (Hadfield’s) singing is on this track,” writes the St. Marys songstress. “(It was) like weightlessness and his voice agreed to agree ... And voila! An astronaut sings Space Oddity in space!”
The resulting video, consisting entirely of footage of Hadfield on the Space Station — often with him playing a guitar and singing — has garnered a huge amount of attention. It can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=lc8BcBZ0tAI.
Hadfield returned to Earth earlier this week amid much praise for the connections he made during several months circling the planet. And, judging from Gryner’s blog, she was genuinely thrilled to be able to have a small role.
“I was so honoured to be asked to be a part of this. You wouldn’t get too many chances to make a recording like this and not only that, to make music with someone who — through his vibrant communications with kids in schools to his breathtaking photos to his always patient and good-humoured demeanour — has done more for science and space than anyone else this generation.”