Canadian astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, has returned safely with his crew, his mission having ignited a renewed public interest and enthusiasm. If you are one of his nearly 1 million Twitter followers or have taken a casual glance at Hadfield's Youtube channel, you'll know that this five-month stint aboard the I.S.S. has been the most media-savvy endeavor in the history of space flight.
As in previous missions, the crew took many photographs and conducted interviews from orbit, however, Hadfield employed extensive use of social media sites to share images and video almost in real time. His Youtube channel was consistently updated with short video demonstrations to answer questions submitted by his social media followers.
From the smallest queries about the every day tasks to the technical details, this has been a mission with which the public could fully interact. In addition to the more common interviews and conferences, Hadfield has engaged children and adults the world over by bringing so much of his own personality to not only give a face to space exploration in the time of social media, but prove that he can entertain as well as inform.
It sounds super nerdy, but outer space is fun again. This new interactive, real-time sharing of the work furthering our engagement is likely a factor in development of a potential reality TV show on Mars. Sounds crazy, but the applications have been rolling in without pause.
For us stuck on terra firma, Chris Hadfield and his colleagues have been able to personalize their time in orbit. Just as the Voyager's final "family portrait" of our solar system captured what Carl Sagan pointed out with affection, our "pale blue dot," so too has the steady stream of Tweeted pics from orbit given the average observer moments to exclaim "that's where I live!"
Which is that often rare mix of solidarity and curiosity that stirs the child in each of us, fueling the exploration and innovation of tomorrow. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must complete my application for Big Brother: Mars Edition...