Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Chris Hadfield's Week: From Commanding the Space Station, to Being Unfit to Drive a Car

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Chris Hadfield's Week: From Commanding the Space Station, to Being Unfit to Drive a Car

Article excerpt

Hadfield not ready to get behind the wheel

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LONGUEUIL, Que. - Until a few days ago, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield was responsible for making sure the International Space Station stayed on course.

Now that he's back on Earth, he can't even drive a car for the next few weeks.

It's been an intense adjustment period for the 53-year-old astronaut who described Thursday how, after months of floating in weightlessness, he's suddenly grappling with the painful effects of gravity.

"Right after I landed, I could feel the weight of my lips and tongue and I had to change how I was talking," Hadfield told reporters during a video news conference from Houston.

"I hadn't realized that I learned to talk with a weightless tongue."

The latest health update by Raffi Kuyumjian, his flight surgeon, said Thursday that the three-time space visitor was starting to show noticeable improvement in his walk and equilibrium.

But Hadfield was not ready to put the pedal to the metal. Kuyumjian said it usually takes about three weeks before a returning astronaut can drive a car again.

When Hadfield spoke to reporters, he said his body felt confused and banged-up by the effects of gravity after his long duration visit.

He said he had to make a conscious effort to keep his head aloft. That he was dizzy. And because the callouses were gone from his feet, his footsteps felt like walking on hot coals.

A first trip to the gym was excruciating, he said, because it felt like two people had jumped on him when he was trying to move on a mat.

Things were so different in space.

''My body was quite happy living in space without gravity,'' he said.

"(It's) a very empowering environment where you can touch the wall and do somersaults, where you can move a refrigerator around with your fingertips and never worry about which way was up.

''Well, that all changed when our Soyuz (capsule) slammed back into the Earth. …

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