Humans have been singing to the heavens for millennia. This Monday, however, the heavens will be singing along: Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield will be singing his song ISS — Is Somebody Singing? with schools and communities across the country, live from the International Space Station. He wrote the song in collaboration with Barenaked Ladies lead singer Ed Robertson especially for the upcoming Music Monday, which is designed to celebrate music education in Canada.
His piloting accomplishments are well known, and Hadfield is the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station. Hadfield surprised many people, however, with his musical talent when he arrived onboard the orbiting research facility with his Canadian-made L’Arrivée guitar, and started beaming musical transmissions home; he is currently recording the first album to be laid down in space. He has even played Takin’ Care of Business on live television with Randy Bachman. But Hadfield isn’t the first Canadian astronaut to have a hidden talent. Some of our earlier rocket men and women have had remarkable skills beyond what sent them into the abyss.
Roberta Bondar, landscape photographer
Roberta Bondar was both Canada’s first female astronaut and the first neurologist in space. During her 129 orbits around Earth, she retained a love and a keen eye for the planet itself. She became a celebrated landscape photographer, publishing four books and participating in dozens of exhibitions.
Steve MacLean, gymnast
Steve MacLean, one of Canada’s first astronauts, acted as the program manager for the development of guidance systems for the Canadarm and Canadarm2 and was the president of the Canadian Space Agency from 2008 until earlier this year. But before he was tumbling through space, MacLean was on the Canadian National Gymnastics Team.
Kenneth Money, Olympic high jumper
Kenneth Money started his career as a physiologist. He was in charge of Canada’s first medical experiments in space, and later continued to study the effects of microgravity on the human body. His own body accomplished some impressive things as well, however; Money placed fifth in high jump at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. But his sporting achievements don't stop there; he later won the 1989 U.S. master’s badminton championship.
Julie Payette, flutist
Julie Payette was the first Canadian to board the International Space Station and has been in orbit twice. She was selected as an astronaut in 1992; by 1996, she had military-level flying and deep-sea diving credentials. Payette speaks six languages and, like Hadfield, one truly international language: she plays the piano and even played the flute with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in May 2008.
Want to know more about Chris Hadfield? Read our Q&A about what life is like on the International Space Station.