The awe that Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield beamed back from space was real. The fame that he racked up while orbiting Earth was just an idea that he didn’t fully understand until shortly after he landed in Kazakhstan earlier this week.
He is adapting to it slowly, just as his body is adapting once again to gravity The transition has left that the 53-year-old astronaut feeling like an elderly man as he is subjected to medical tests and a rehabilitation program to conquer his dizziness, poor circulation and weakened bones and muscles.
“My body was quite happy living in space without gravity. It’s a very empowering environment where you can touch the wall and do summersaults, where you can move a refrigerator around with your fingertips and never worry about which way was up,” he said. “All that suddenly changed when our Soyuz slammed back into earth, and my body is catching up with the change.”
Dr. Raffi Kuyumjian, the Canadian Space Agency’s chief medical officer, said Hadfield’s aches and pains prove that spaceflight is a great aging simulator — for every month in space, astronauts lose 1 per cent of their bone density.
For now, he said, Hadfield shuffles when he walks, has soreness in his back and neck after being weightless for five months, and is experiencing dizziness that makes it difficult navigating corners and means he is often bumping into walls as he waddles through NASA’s hallways.