A man who has marveled at Earth from 205 miles up was impressed Tuesday by some books he saw in Kansas City.
Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut who commanded the International Space Station, was in town on a book tour and stopped by the Linda Hall Library. There he got to lay hands on some of the most important works that laid the foundation for modern astronomy and space travel.
Such as Copernicus’ “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres” from 1543, in which the astronomer placed Earth in orbit around the sun.
“It’s wonderful that they’ve been preserved and survived all this time,” Hadfield said as librarian Bruce Bradley showed him the precious pages.
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And Galileo’s “Starry Messenger” from 1610, in which he recorded stars and satellites of Jupiter as he saw them through a telescope of his own making.
“Would he not be amazed with what we see now?” Hadfield said. “He’d probably just be delighted.”
And Isaac Newton’s “Principia” from 1687, in which he laid out the three laws of motion.
“People picture him sitting in an orchard when an apple hit him on the head,” Hadfield said. “He was a little beyond that.”
Hadfield thinks the authors would have no trouble flourishing in the modern world.
“Give them a week and they’d be right up to speed,” he said. “These were brilliant, forward thinkers. They would just love to see what we’re doing now and it would make perfect sense to them. They would just be nodding their heads and smiling.”
Hadfield flew on the space shuttle twice and commanded the space station in 2013. He is the author of “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” and the new “You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes.”
He is also widely known as the astronaut who made videos on the space station, including one of him singing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” with an acoustic guitar. It has been seen millions of times on YouTube.
Hadfield’s visit to Kansas City offered an opportunity to ask him: How did that guitar get up to the space station?
“It was put there by NASA psychologists back in August of 2001,” he explained. “There have always been musical instruments on space stations. … I brought a guitar up to (the Russian station) Mir in 1995. It stayed up there for five years. It’s in a museum in Ottawa now.”