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Here Am I, Sitting in a Tin Can

The movie 'Apollo 13' famously - and accurately - portrays an America that was already growing bored with its lunar adventures and taking moonflight for granted. Forty years later, the grounding of the Space Shuttle sparked a brief period of yearning for a time of grander ambition; but few eyes bother to look overhead for the International Space Station as it streaks through the night sky.

But Canadian astronaut Cmdr Chris Hadfield, today ending his spell as commander of the ISS, has helped remind us all what it is about spaceflight that is truly inspiring. It is not just being in space, per se, but the opportunity to look back onto the planet on which we all live.

Few have understood that better than Cmdr Hadfield, who over the last several months has used Twitter and Facebook to post a series of enthralling images of Earth - often several a day - that have earned him an appreciative following and probably done more to make the case for launching human beings into outer space than any human since Sally Ride. He capped off his tour of duty by releasing this outstanding cover of David Bowie's 'Space Oddity.' If it were up to me, Cmdr Hadfield would stay in orbit forever, entertaining and educating us all; but he doubtless yearns to feel solid ground, to breathe fresh air, to listen to birdsong and to hold his family. He has more than earned that right. Safe travels, sir, and thank you.

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