His coup de grâce was his beautifully shot and impressively sung rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” In the off-chance that you haven’t yet seen it (or even if you’ve seen it dozens of times), it’s definitely worth watching:
Hadfield was already a science superstar, but the release of the video has basically made him the coolest nerd on (or off) earth. But he’s not the first spaceman to ham it up for the cameras while adrift in the great black void.
Astronauts have a long history of doing awesome stuff in space — sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident. Here are some out-of-this-world highlights.
Golf on the moon
In the winter of 1971, Alan Shepard led the Apollo 14 mission, which resulted in America’s third successful moon landing. At age 47, he was the oldest astronaut in NASA’s space program, and perhaps he was daydreaming about retiring to Florida and spending his golden years on the golf course. Maybe that’s why he brought along a modified six iron, which he affixed to the handle of a lunar scooping shovel.
“I’m going to try a little sand trap shot here,” he quipped to Mission Control. Understandably, he whiffed on his first attempt (space suits are awfully constrictive), joking that he “got more dirt than ball.” When he actually connected with the ball, he watched it sail over a lunar dune and he quipped that it went “miles and miles.” Eat that, Tiger Woods.
I’m singin’ on the moon…
During a 1972 moonwalk as part of the Apollo 17 mission, astronauts Harrison “Jack” Schmitt and Eugene Cernan skipped and sang a modified rendition of version of “The Fountain in the Park.” They bungled the lyrics a bit in an attempt to make the song reflect the timing of their mission, but the performance was still all kinds of awesome. Apollo 17 was the final Apollo mission, and the last time human beings have set foot on the surface of the moon. It’s comforting to know that the last time our species stood upon another celestial sphere, we skipped merrily.
Stephen Hawking escapes gravity
OK, technically Stephen Hawking is not an astronaut, and technically he didn’t go to space. But he has probably traveled deeper into space through pure thought than any other human will aboard a spaceship. Afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s Disease since his youth, Hawking has been confined to a wheelchair with ever-worsening paralysis. But for a few minutes in 2007, he was able to slip loose of the constraints of his wheelchair — and of gravity itself — during a flight aboard the so-called Vomit Comet, a zero-gravity simulation plane. It was freaking beautiful.
The hammer throw
On earth, burly men in kilts throw the hammer at Highland Games. In space, nerdy men in spacesuits throw the hammer in the Very-High-Land Games. At the end of the Apollo 17 mission (after his skipping duet with Eugene Cernan), Harrison “Jack” Schmidt decided he want to leave behind a little memento of their visit to the moon. He pleaded with Cernan to let him throw his geology hammer before they returned to their module. It’s pretty hilarious to hear a brilliant and courageous space explorer beg like a giddy child to perform a silly stunt. “Lemme throw the hammer. Lemme throw the hammer. Please? Look at that! Look at that! Looks like it’s going a million miles!” Adorable.
Rocky Balboa never had a training montage like this
The origins of this video are a bit unclear, but it seems to depict astronauts getting accustomed to life in zero gravity. And they’re clearly having a blast. One great benefit to slipping the grasp of gravity: you can do push-ups with two full-sized men sitting on your back. That’s hardcore.
Harrison “Jack” Schmidt — the skipping, singing hammer thrower — was a real ham. He walked on the moon for about seven hours in 1971 and seemed to have a blast while doing it. Here is is showing some fancy footwork with an unlikely soccer ball — a lunar boulder.
“Space Oddity” it ain’t, but still a decent tune…
Chris Hadfield isn’t the first astronaut to strum a guitar and sing a song while floating in a most peculiar way. Upon learning that his return to earth from the International Space Station might be delayed by up to two months, NASA spaceman Ron Garan performed a ditty called Space Station blues:
“Got those space station blues, don’t know what I’m going to do. Just got a call on the phone, they say we ain’t goin’ home.”
Heartbreaking, right? Well, he and the rest of the crew seemed to take the news in stride.
Hey, YOU try walking around in a bulky spacesuit on another celestial object with reduced gravity. It ain’t easy.
Yo-yo mastery in space
The appeal of the yo-yo on earth is that it rises upward after being hurled downward, as if in defiance of gravity. It turns out, though, that yo-yos are still pretty fascinating — perhaps even more so — when there’s no gravity to defy. During his time on the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Don Pettit capitalized on his zero-gravity environs to demonstrate some cool science factoids with a yo-yo. And he seemed to take great pride in his exclusive rights to the trickery: “Because I’m in space and I can, I get to name these yo-yo tricks as I invent them.” Nyah-nyah.