Peace Arch News

Ground control to Commander Chris

Brothers William and Jacob Denman, 6 and 8, respectively, read out their letters to Canadian astronaut to CBC reporter Margaret Gallagher. - Sarah Massah photo
Brothers William and Jacob Denman, 6 and 8, respectively, read out their letters to Canadian astronaut to CBC reporter Margaret Gallagher.
— image credit: Sarah Massah photo

“How do you feel being away from your family?”

“How many planets do you think you’ll see on your trip?”

“Do you like the spacesuits?”

After settling into his new position as Flight Engineer 1 aboard the Russian Soyuz 33 bound for the International Space Station, answering those questions – among others sent from students in Carolyn Logan-Estey’s class at the Crescent Park Annex – was top of the list for Canadian astronaut Cmdr. Chris Hadfield.

With Earth framed in the ship’s window, Hadfield answered each of the questions while in orbit:

“I miss them, but I get to talk with them and email them and occasionally see them on video, so it’s OK.”

“Just one up-close; the Earth. Our trip doesn’t go to other planets, it circles around the earth, like the moon does.”

“Yes, because they protect me and let me go outside.”

Tuesday, clutching copies of the letters they sent, the primary students waited excitedly for a CBC Radio reporter to arrive and record them reading the notes.

“I’ve never been on it before. It will be fun,” Hayden Scott, 8, said of his impending radio performance that aired on Early Edition the following morning.

“I’m a bit scared, and it will be strange but exciting.”

(The readings are available online)

The letters were written as part of a science project in which the youngsters have been tracking Hadfield’s five-month mission. He launched Dec. 19 and at the ISS, will oversee operations as 1st Canadian Commander (as of March), carry out scientific experiments and operate Canadarm2 and perform robotics tasks.

Hadfield’s responses to the children – received Dec. 22 –were like early Christmas presents, sent from space.

“It was fun and cool that he answered,” agreed brothers William and Jacob Denman, 6 and 8, respectively.

Connecting with Hadfield was made possible through a friend of Logan-Estey’s, Mac Heuser, who attended Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. with the astronaut and acted as messenger for the questions and answers.

“They are all pilots. That was the connection. We were so lucky that he was able to answer it. The students were very excited,” Logan-Estey said.

And while the idea of flying through space – described as “like magic, like a superpower” by Hadfield – was alluring to many of the students, for Johan Stjernstroem, 8, a more grounded career path is in the cards.

“I want to be a teacher,” he said.

For info about Hadfield’s mission, visit


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