One balmy and clear starry night, we met an older couple from Hawaii. They were passengers aboard the Amsterdam, which was all lit up like a fairy-tale vessel. We said “Hello”, they replied “Aloha”, and joined us for a chat on a bench. He was talking about the Mauna Kea Observatories on the Big Island. Sometimes the skies over Hawaii are so clear, you can ‘pluck the stars’. We mentioned that we know an astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield, who was the first Canadian to operate Canadarm in orbit. That got their full attention. They asked us how we met him?
Our circumnavigations by ship in the early ‘70s led to membership in Circumnavigators Club, a unique gathering of individuals who have circumnavigated the globe. To be a member you must cross every meridian longitude in one direction.
With chapters all over the world, the Club has a positive feeling of fellowship. At any given time there can never be more than 1,000 members. Amongst others, there have been many illustrious “Circums” such as Houdini, Sir Edmund Hillary, Jacques Cousteau, Thor Hyderdahl, Buffalo Bill Cody, as well as a number of American astronauts. They certainly qualify, some orbit the Earth a couple of hundred times on one mission.
A few years ago we had the idea of inviting Chris Hadfield to Vancouver, where we lived, to give a presentation. We approached the international CircumClub president, Al Morasso, who agreed it would be a great idea. Part of the Canadian Space Agency’s policy is to have astronauts give public talks. We filled out the forms and were pleased to receive word that Chris would indeed come to Vancouver.
As head of the fledgling B.C. chapter of the Circumnavigators Club, I thought it would be good to give Chris some kind of momento.
We asked a jewelry-maker and goldsmith friend of ours (Andrew Costen, of Costen Catbalue in Vancouver) if he would be interested in creating a special pin for Chris Hadfield, using a meteorite. Andy created a one-of-a-kind design.
Mr. (and Mrs.) Al Morasso, President of the Circumnavigators Club, flew in for the occasion. On November 1, 2003 we presented the pin to Chris, along with an Honorary Membership in the Circumnavigators Club. There was a great turnout at the Vancouver Planetarium. Chris Hadfield’s talk was electrifying. He was surprised and delighted with the custom-made meteorite pin. You can see a picture of it here.
So that’s how we met a real astronaut.