There’s a Starman, waiting in the sky: Inspired By the Moon Landing, Astronauts and a Teacher

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center


There’s a Starman, waiting in the sky

By Julie Boyd ·  3 min read · From 500 Words: One Moment, This Year

It was a moment in 2013 when a single sentence changed my day…and made both scientific and technological history.

Chris Hadfield is on Twitter @Cmdr_Hadfield was enough for me to time travel back to my 12-year-old self, and melt in paroxysms of delight as I clicked onto the Twitter name.

I’d always wanted to be an astronaut. To me, they were magical beings, true pioneers. As a toddler, I couldn’t wait to go to sleep. Astral travelling took me flying over paddocks towards towns and cities I didn’t even know existed until I was much older.

At the age of ten, I was lucky enough to be blessed with a real magical being in my life, a teacher named Mr Bruce. He was tall and gawky, and wore Coke bottle glasses. He taught us how to find fascinating information in the oddest of places.

Our learning wasn’t just confined to school hours. I guess, in a tiny country village with no nightlife, a dedicated teacher can afford the time to take groups of kids stargazing. We learnt about constellations and comets as we gazed at them through his very own powerful telescope, rather than from books. He introduced us to a Russian called Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, who described the earth as a perfect blue sphere.

As we gazed up at the Milky Way one clear night, watching a shower of falling stars, he told us there were plans afoot to put a man on the moon. I was at boarding school when that finally happened and we were able to watch the blurry footage on a black-and-white television that had none of the clarity of my dreams, or Mr Bruce’s telescope. Not long afterwards, David Bowie sang Starman and the synthesis of science, dreams, technology and music, in my mind, was complete.

Years later, on a visit to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, I was privileged to meet the very man who did step onto the moon and got the chance to ask him the question that had long been on my mind. “What did you say next after you said ‘One step for man, a giant leap for mankind’?” He told me.

Now this.

To be able to communicate directly with an astronaut, while he or she was in space, was the ultimate dream. Suddenly, there he was, right at my fingertips. The only problem was a million others clearly felt just the same.

Chris Hadfield became a star thanks, in part, to a grasp of technology that made Star Trek’s Captain Kirk look like a late adopter. Daily, he would beam down photographs of towns, cities and places to which people responded, “That’s where I live” or “Can you please send photos of Australia next time you fly over?” (from me). He did.

His followers watched spellbound as he videoed the most mundane events such as sleeping, shaving, or wringing out a towel, which often astonished him as much as us. These became fodder for his often poetic and philosophical messages.

He responded to tweets from school children and starstruck adults, and described sixteen sunsets and sunrises a day. We watched with amusement as he chatted with the original Captain Kirk, William Shatner during a very entertaining Skype hookup.

David Bowie sent him a tweet which simply said ‘Hello Starboy’, to which he responded by unshackling the guitar he had carried into space with him. As he began to play, I wished my dear teacher Mr Bruce was still around to share the strains of ‘Space Oddity’ floating across the universe from the real deal.

Published 29 Dec 2013.  Pottsville NSW 2489