Chris Hadfield, Best. Astronaut. Ever.

Chris Hadfield is coming back to earth tonight. We’ll miss him. His photos are personal views of the earth from a vantage we are only used to impersonal ‘coverage’ from. His ‘ask an astronaut’ videos cover material NASA has published before, but are suddenly fun. His singalongs with musicians and school children could have been cheesy, but his cover of Space Oddity lifted them to a new level. He was on the International Space Station, but he was looking back at us. So he brought us with him. When he comes back to earth, he’ll come closer to us again, and slip back into the crowd. 


Those of us working in Heritage and Public Archaeology have a lot to learn from him. 

Commander Chris Hadfield obviously loves his job; his enthusiasm shines. And he’s good at his job; he didn’t become Commander for his social media skills. When there was a technical crisis, he focussed on that. While he was on ISS he was also running a series of experiments, which he sometimes communicated about. But what made his communication work was that he brought himself, and he looked at us while he was communicating. And as a result people have remembered what they love about the Space Programme, and they have learned things about Space and Space Science, and they have thought and felt about the world in new, more inclusive ways. Result!


So what are the lessons in this?


  1. The Commander is the communicator

Communication is a basic skill of leadership. The senior people in your organisation ought to know how to communicate. Its wonderful having many views from a project, but make sure that the leader is communicating too, don’t delegate because it isn’t important.


  1. Give it time

Communication was one of the major projects of Chris Hadfield’s time on the ISS. He didn’t just squeeze it in between his more important jobs. 


  1. Stand on your discipline, but look at your audience

People followed Chris Hadfield because he was on the ISS, it was his status *as an astronaut* that built his audience. But much of his communication was about the earth. He never reminded us how important Space science was, nor de he set out to enlighten us. He shared his perspective.


  1. Take your audience seriously, even when you’re having fun

When he answered questions, he engaged with them fully. In this video where he shows what happens when you wring out a cloth in Zero G, (http:// he ends with ‘good experiment’ and he means it


  1. Be a human being

The story of *being* an Astronaut (or an Archaeologist) is a big part of the story people are interested in. Chris Hadfield is a musician as well, but it wasn’t for the quality of his music that people listened. It was for the quality of his humanity.


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