Ground Control To Colonel Chris - Meet The Coolest Guy In Outer Space

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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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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