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Snowbirds from space

SNOWBIRDS FROM SPACE More than a year in the works, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, commander of the International Space Station, snapped this photo of the Snowbirds flying Sunday near Comox from space. - PHOTO BY NASA/CMDR. CHRIS HADFIELD
SNOWBIRDS FROM SPACE More than a year in the works, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, commander of the International Space Station, snapped this photo of the Snowbirds flying Sunday near Comox from space.
— image credit: PHOTO BY NASA/CMDR. CHRIS HADFIELD

From Capt. Thomas Edelson's eye, it may have just been the perfect Kodak moment.

Although he didn't snap the photo, the Public Affairs Officer of the Snowbirds may have co-ordinated one of the most original, technical and precise photos taken of the Canadian Forces Snowbird team — 370 kilometres above the earth.

Col. Chris Hadfield, commander of the International Space Station (ISS) and former fighter pilot with the Canadian Forces, took the photo early Sunday evening as the ISS flew over Comox.

"I got a phone call from (Hadfield) Sunday and I put it on speakerphone to let him talk to the team," explained Edelson who is here with the Snowbird team for two weeks while they train at CFB Comox.

"He said he was just over the coast of Africa and asked what the weather was like (over Comox). He said he'll see us in 40 minutes."

Edelson noted it was a "complete team effort" to get the Snowbirds ready for their third flight of the day, who watched the rare 11-plane team formation along with the CF-18 Hornet take off for their flight with a tight two-minute window for the photo.

He knew the photo worked shortly afterwards, when his phone rang with a call from space.

"Commander Hadfield called right back and said he got it — he could see it from the space station with his naked eye."

The 'Super Canada Goose' formation was chosen to incorporate the 11-plane formation (usually the demonstration team consists of nine planes) and the team intentionally put down more smoke to be highly visible.

The photo, which was released by the Snowbirds Monday and tweeted by social media-savvy Hadfield Tuesday afternoon, came together when what Edelson described as "a ton of variables had to line up."

"I had the idea awhile ago, because I thought it would a really neat way to get a picture of the team from space. I thought originally we might be able to get it taken by a satellite with optics, but then found out Hadfield was going to be the first Canadian to be commander of the ISS, and thought it was fortuitous."

Edelson contacted the Canadian Space Agency and co-ordinated with current astronaut and friend of the Snowbirds Jeremy Hansen, who contacted Hadfield and told Edelson "he loved the idea."

The large task at hand was then to ensure the variables lined up, explained Edelson.

"We had to make sure the weather was right, to make sure the ISS was flying over Comox, when and were they were going to be," he noted.

At exactly 5:06 p.m., on April 21, the photo was snapped, and Edelson said the very successful project between a Canadian astronaut and the Canadian military demonstration team came to fruition.

"It's a real compliment to Canadian determination and ingenuity," he said.

As for coming up with another creative idea to highlight the team, Edelson laughed.

"It's a tough one to beat."

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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