Normally overwhelmed with work, the U. S., Canadian and Russian crew of the International Space Station previewed a song about space travel and made time to chat with William Shatner, of Star Trek Captain Kirk fame, as another busy week on the orbiting science lab drew to a close.
Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield emceed both, joining with Barenakedladies guitarist Ed Robertson to preview a new song, Is Someone Singing? composed from a favorite perch of Hadfield’s on the space station — the cupola observation desk.
The lyrics and music, composed and performed by Hadfield and Robertson, explores what it’s like to gaze down on the Earth from outer space.
An accomplished musician who enjoys performing on Earth with other musically inclined astronauts, Hadfield explores the beauty and isolation his profession affords in the tune.
The two men have made the lyrics of their collaboration available for anyone who wishes to sing along with a Youtube presentation.
Hadfield’s influences, evident in the duet, include Rush and Leonard Cohen.
Shatner, a fellow Canadian who rose to fame on American television with his portrayal of the swashbuckling captain of the space civilization seeking Starship Enterprise, was no less farsighted as he chatted with Hadfield about the future of space exploration.
“What’s happening to the U. S. space program? “asked Shatner, adopting a tone of concern as he pointed to the shuttle’s retirement and the absence of a near term NASA replacement. “Is America falling behind, or is this just a pause?”
“This is a natural path,” explained Hadfield, drawing fromU. S.space history to support his explanation.
In a sense, each American spaceflight dating to NASA’s Mercury era was followed by a lull in which the experts evaluated the successes and failures before launching again, he noted.
“The space business is an extremely difficult one,” said Hadfield.
However, unlike the lulls between NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and the shuttle programs, 15 of the world’s nations allied under U. S. guidance to develop the International Space Station, which has been permanently staffed for a dozen years.Russia, as it turned out, was in the best position to shoulder the transportation role for astronauts, using its Soyuz systems until NASA could field a successor to the shuttle, he continued.
Those includes efforts by NASA to assist with the development of new commercial crew transportation systems by 2017 and a new space agency spacecraft — Orion and the Space Launch System — for future mission to the asteroids and Mars.
“The U. S. will build another vehicle,” said Hadfield. “Fortunately, because of international cooperation we are not grounded.”
Shatner seemed grateful to learn his character, Captain Kirk, had helped to influence Hadfield’s choice of careers.
“Between the real life exploits of the first astronauts and the visually fantasized one like you portrayed on Star Trek — they inspired people like me to do things like this,” said Hadfield as he gazed around the space station.
“Without that inspiration and without the technical capability that comes along with it, none of this would be possible,” Hadfield assured the actor. “I’m in a position to say the risks are infinitely worthwhile, when you look at the views just out this window and the things that lie beyond. And, yes, going to Mars is inevitable, just as sailing or flying across the Atlantic, or going to the moon. It’s just a matter of figuring out how.”