Chatting from Space

Everyone knows that the reach of social media has expanded far and wide across the globe, but do you know that it has gone beyond the bounds of the Earth’s atmosphere? Yes, you read it right. e.

Reddit is a social news and entertainment site where users get to post links or short texts which other users rate by clicking on the up or down arrow. Posts that get a high “up” vote achieve a high ranking and stay on the top of the pages while those that get a high “down” vote are pushed at the bottom of the list. Posts can fall on various categories, or subreddits, like politics, technology, science, pictures, music, gaming, and movies.

Chris Hadfield

The most popular part of Reddit is the IAmA portion where users can post anything relevant to them and prompt other users to AMA or Ask Me Anything. For example, someone can post, “IAmA scientist. AMA.” Sometimes posts can be as trivial as “I am vacationing in the Bahamas. AMA.” Through this portion, the site is able to elicit high levels of interaction among its very diverse community of users.

It is therefore no surprise that Chris Hadfield’s post drew the attention of thousands of users. Hadfield is an astronaut who hails from Canada. He is presently on board the ISS where works as a flight engineer. Hadfield posted on Reddit, “Hello Reddit! My name is Chris Hadfield. I am an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency who has been living aboard the International Space Station since December, orbiting the Earth 16 times per day… The purpose of all of this is to connect with you and allow you to experience a bit more directly what life is like living aboard an orbiting research vessel… Ask away!” (Reddit)

His post easily became one of the most popular IAmA posts and has received almost 4,000 “up” votes. The comments on his post number almost 8,000 and counting. People have been asking him all sorts of questions, from how many times he bumps his head every day to how he keeps his moustache from flying all over when he shaves. And the questions just keep pouring in.

Someone asked if he switches the lights off at night, to which he answered that he actually does. According to Hadfield, they follow the UTC time, which means his night time is the same as that of London’s. He also described the place where he sleeps – a small space the size of a phone booth. Its walls are padded and it is completely private. It also has no bed.

Mr. Hadfield is already on his third trip to space. The first time he travelled outside the atmosphere was 17 years ago when he went to the Russian space station Mir through the Atlantis space shuttle. He is the first Canadian to have gone to Mir. In March 2013, he will be leading the ISS crew, which will make him the second non-American, non-Russian person to do so.

For many people, being able to read Mr. Hadfield’s Reddit posts seems surreal. After all, it’s not every day that we get to see an IAmA post beamed straight from space. The Canadian astronaut is able to log in to Reddit through a satellite relay that connects him to a server located in Houston, Texas. His posts and answers to questions have helped people to know more about what it is like to live in space as an astronaut.

Who would have guessed that the reach of social media can go beyond the reaches of Earth? That is the wonder of such platforms. They connect people in amazing ways from different parts of the world – and even from outer space.