OTTAWA — As astronaut Chris Hadfield retires from the Canadian Space Agency, he can expect some hefty speaking fees — even more than the thousands of dollars per event that Justin Trudeau was earning — through work with a private agency that arranges celebrity speaking engagements.
But the former International Space Station commander said he will continue to speak to students for free.
“The response has been tremendous,” said Speakers’ Spotlight president Martin Perelmuter, who is co-ordinating Hadfield’s professional speaking engagements. “People are very excited that he is going to be out there speaking about his experiences, not just about what he’s been doing recently, but about what he’s been doing over the course of his entire career.”
Hadfield, who recently returned from a five-month tour aboard the space station, gained international prominence by using social media to bring the wonders of space to those on Earth. He used Skype to talk with students about what it takes to be an astronaut, made videos showing how everyday tasks can be performed without gravity and shared photos from space with more than one million Twitter followers.
His fame has made him a hot commodity on the speaking circuit and Perelmuter said the astronaut is already getting requests from industries and companies as far away as the United States, the United Kingdom and Portugal. In the last week of June alone, Speakers’ Spotlight received more than 500 emails asking for Hadfield to speak at corporate events, and more requests are coming in every day.
Although the astronaut’s fees have not yet been determined, Perelmuter said that because of Hadfield’s accomplishments and popularity it will “certainly be at the higher end of the spectrum.” For Canadian speakers, this would be in the ballpark of $50,000 per engagement. By comparison, Trudeau, who got into hot water recently over his professional speaking fees while an MP, earned up to $20,000.
All astronauts in the Canadian Space Agency talk to school groups as part of their jobs, but it’s not uncommon for them to enter the professional speaking gig once they retire. For example, Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first woman to fly in space, has been working with Speakers’ Spotlight for about 15 years and former Canadian astronaut Dave Williams can be booked for speaking engagements through the National Speakers Bureau.
The Canadian Space Agency is promoting Hadfield’s new job on its website and representatives say they don’t begrudge Hadfield his lucrative speaking career so soon after his return to Earth. Anna Kapiniari, a representative from the agency, adds that those in the organization admire Hadfield’s decision and are thrilled he will continue to work with school groups and be involved with ”On the Lunch Pad” – a program Hadfield founded to connect students and astronauts on Skype over lunch time.
“Chris is an incredibly hard-working, tireless person,” Kapiniari said. “We have a lot of respect for how much time, interest, energy and dedication he’s put into speaking with young people already.”
Hadfield, who admits retirement is “scary” after 35 years of working for the Canadian Space Agency, said he looks forward to promoting space exploration in this next stage of his life.
“With the space flights I’ve had, they’ve put me into a very prominent position as a Canadian and it would be a shame for me not to make the most of it,” 53-year old Hadfield said.
“It looks like I was nobody and then there was this carefully choreographed sudden rush of things so I could reach some ulterior motive, but it’s not like that at all. I’ve been trying to show young Canadians the wonders of opportunity that exist even before I was an astronaut.”
Hadfield said public speaking has been on his list of possible post-retirement jobs for two decades now, despite the fact that such a career would once have been a “gamble” for him. And even now, the astronaut said he is approaching the experience cautiously and will be careful not to over-commit once he starts accepting speaking jobs in the fall.
“The last two times I flew into space, there was a great awareness right afterwards, but that fades away over time,” he said. “I’m just brand-new at this phase of life and I’m just trying to guess what’s going to be the best balance.”
Meanwhile, Random House Canada announced Tuesday it had inked a two-book deal with astronaut Chris Hadfield, with the first book expected Oct. 29, in time for the 2013 Christmas shopping season.
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth will cover Hadfield’s years of training as well as tales of rocket launches, spacewalks and how to keep calm in a crisis. It is likely to be part memoir and part self-help.
Hadfield told Postmedia News he is looking forward to some rest and relaxation this summer while he moves his family to Toronto and continues to debrief and physically recover from his latest mission.
“I’m really looking forward to getting some feet-up time in amongst all the other craziness of changing jobs,” he said. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind.”