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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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How Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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