Royal Roads University in Colwood, outside Victoria, is no stranger to spacebound stars. During the early 2000s, Sir Patrick Stewart, star of Star Trek: The Next Generation, was treading the campus, filming the X-Men movies.
Before then, future Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield was studying at the university. He began his bachelor of engineering degree studies at Royal Roads in 1978 when it was still a military college, spending two years there before transferring to Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. During his time here, Hadfield was president of the ski club at the school.
“That was a cherished memory, pulling out of Royal Roads and driving… quick as we could on a Friday and getting up to Whistler for two full days, and then driving back late Sunday night,” Hadfield told Black Press Media.
He managed to squeeze in ski practice wherever he could, including on the Neptune Stairs which lead down to the front entrance of the famed Hatley Castle. In a Facebook post, the university jokingly “renamed” the stairs in honour of Hadfield’s exploits, although they warned other students against trying to emulate the stunt.
“For me it all started there, just up the hill from Hatley Castle. It’s such a beautiful place there with the castle and gardens and all the way down to the lagoon,” he said. “It was a big part and an interesting part of my life.”
Hadfield still has family in the area and said he tries to visit whenever he can. As well as starting an education that put him on the path to becoming an astronaut, he worked on his musical skills – Hadfield was famously the first person to record an album in space, which featured his world-renowned cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity (which Hadfield said Bowie loved.)
“I remember sitting down there on the waterfront, with a campfire going on the (lagoon) and playing guitar and singing songs around that campfire,” he said. “That’s been with me through my whole life.”
While his Colwood and astronaut days are behind him, Hadfield remains busy. His latest book and first foray into fiction, The Apollo Murders, is a New York Times bestseller. He’s already working on a sequel as well as a potential film or TV adaptation of the original.