Chris Hadfield helps Imperial Oil celebrate injury-free year

Paul Morden – Jan. 10, 2019, The Sarnia Observer

Doing something incredible takes hard work, retired astronaut Chris Hadfield told 2,000 Imperial Oil employees and contractors gathered Thursday to celebrate a rare year with no time lost due to injury at the company’s Sarnia manufacturing site.

He spoke from a stage on the home ice of the Sarnia Sting about growing up inspired by Apollo missions to the moon and working hard to become a fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut, the first Canadian to walk in space and the first Canadian to command the International Space Station.

Hadfield, who attended King George VI Public School in Sarnia and still spends time at a cottage on Stag Island in the St. Clair River, “is a hometown hero,” said James Ritchie, Imperial’s Sarnia chemical plant manager.

“Being able to bring him here to reinforce the messages we have at Imperial, that’s just an honour . . . we’re over the moon.”

The early-morning safety event followed a lost-time-to-accident-free year at the company’s Sarnia Manufacturing Site in 2018. It was the first time that has happened in the 120-year history of the site where Imperial operates a refinery, chemical plant and research centre, Ritchie said.

“What we are doing is world-class performance.”

Being world-class takes “a tremendous amount of work,” Hadfield told the crowd in the Progressive Auto Sales Arena.

He spoke about the first NASA mission to the moon that inspired him years ago, calling it an “absolutely crazy, impossible, world-class thing to do.”

But it happened because of the “audaciousness” of late U.S. President John Kennedy, who in the early 1960s pledged his country would travel to the moon.

“He challenged everybody to try and do something that was right beyond impossible,” Hadfield said.

Hadfield compared that to his own time as a youngster growing up in Sarnia. He became an air cadet and joined the air force on his way to being named a Canadian astronaut in 1992, in the same group with Gov. Gen. Julie Payette.

Hadfield made three trips to space and became a social media sensation when he recorded videos about life in orbit, as well as a cover version of a David Bowie song, recorded on the space station.

He spoke Thursday about a successful emergency space walk needed while he was commanding the space station when a cooling system sprung a leak.

“It wasn’t by luck and it wasn’t inevitable,” he said about the space walk that “saved the day.”

It was the result of “decades of one goal, one team,” Hadfield said.

“You need to have a perpetual dissatisfaction with your skill set and a constant, relentless drive to become better at the things that matter to you.”

Following Thursday’s presentation, Hadfield was scheduled to visit with pupils at P. E. McGibbon Public School in Sarnia.

Posted in: News