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Astronaut -- and YouTube star -- Chris Hadfield
Astronaut -- and YouTube star -- Chris Hadfield
Luca Castelli

MILAN - A few weeks ago, half a million people watched him brush his teeth. Two million people discovered that tears don’t run down his face. Four million watched him squeeze a soaking-wet dishtowel.

Meet Colonel Chris Hadfield. He’s Canadian, 53, and very proud of his mustache. Yet something differentiates him from all other people on earth – he’s not on earth. Hadfield is living on the International Space Station (ISS). It’s from there that he has become a huge star on the Internet, through videos, interviews, tweets -- and even songs.

The former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot is now a regular up in orbit. His first missions were back in the Shuttle-era – 1995 and 2001. In March he took over command of the ISS – and it is the first time a Canadian is in charge. This long-duration Expedition 35 mission is being documented by the commander on the Canadian Space Agency’s YouTube account, as well as on Hadfield’s personal Twitter account – turning him into the “Internet’s favorite astronaut.”

The themes that Hadfield deals with are a mix between science and everyday life. The videos taken on the ISS tell us about life in zero gravity, but always keep a scientific tone. How do astronauts sleep? How do they shave? How do they make a sandwich? Each question is answered on YouTube, and he has even taken part in a Reddit Ask Me Anything.

Music is Hadfield’s hobby and in February he became the first person to partake in a live earth-space duet, singing and playing with his compatriot Ed Robertston of the Barenaked Ladies and a children’s choir down in Toronto. The song was called ISS– Is Someone Singing?

And then, there are all the photographs. Published daily, and punctually, via Twitter, they form an incredible diary-in-progress. The photos vary from a colleague going on a space walk to a view high above Berlin. This multimedia documentary will continue on until the end of May, when the astronauts from Expedition 36 take over.

But, before then, maybe there will be enough time for a new “twittersation” between Hadfield and William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in the Star Trek series. “Are you tweeting from space?” inquired Shatner at the beginning of January. Respectful of fantasy hierarchy, Hadfield immediately tweeted back, “Yes, Standard Orbit, Captain. And we're detecting signs of life on the surface,” confirming that even without gravity, a joke on Twitter is irresistible.

How do you sprinkle salt and pepper without gravity? We squirt salt water and pepper oil. twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield/…

— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) April 16, 2013

Tonight's Finale: People ask to see stars - my camera does its best in dim light. Our atmosphere glows in the dark. twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield/…

— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) April 12, 2013

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

When Did Putin "Turn" Evil? That's Exactly The Wrong Question

Look back over the past two decades, and you'll see Vladimir Putin has always been the man revealed by the Ukraine invasion, an evil and sinister dictator. The Russian leader just managed to mask it, especially because so many chose to see him as a typically corrupt and greedy strongman who could be bribed or reasoned with.

Putin arrives for a ceremony to accept credentials from 24 foreign ambassadors at the Grand Kremlin Palace on Sept. 20.

Sergiy Gromenko*

-OpEd-

KYIV — The world knows that Vladimir Putin has power, money and mistresses. So why, ask some, wasn't that enough for him? Why did he have to go start another war?

At its heart, this is the wrong question to ask. For Putin, military expansion is not an adrenaline rush to feed into his existing life of luxury. On the contrary, the shedding of blood for the sake of holding power is his modus operandi, while the fruits of greed and corruption like the Putin Palace in Gelendzhik are more like a welcome bonus.

In the last year, we have kept hearing rhetorical questions like “why did Putin start this war at all, didn't he have enough of his own land?” or “he already has Gelendzhik to enjoy, why fight?” This line of thinking has resurfaced after missile strikes on Ukrainian power grids and dams, which was regarded by many as a simple demonstration of terrorism. Such acts are a manifestation of weakness, some ask, so is Putin ready to show himself weak?

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However, you will not arrive at the correct answer if the questions themselves are asked incorrectly. For decades, analysts in Russia, Ukraine, and the West have been under an illusion about the nature of the Russian president's personal dictatorship.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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