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Space odyssey ends better for Chris Hadfield than for Major Tom

A Soyuz capsule has landed safely in the steppes of Kazakhstan, bringing to a safe end the space odyssey of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, whose video of David Bowie's "A Space Oddity" has gone viral.

The capsule containing Hadfield, along with fellow International Space Station crew members Tom Marshburn and Roman Romanenko, landed on its side, kicking up a cloud of dust, at 8:31 Tuesday morning local time. Crews were on site to extract them -- Hadfield was the last to emerge -- and take the three to a nearby medical tent. They had been in space for nearly five months.

During his sojourn on the station, Hadfield effectively reset the bar for social media with his tweets from space, including the video he posted Sunday. He is the first Canadian to command the station, heading the six-man Expedition 35 crew.

It is not known when Hadfield will return to Canada, but his reception there is likely to be off the charts. The singer and guitarist penned a theme song for the flight, “Is Somebody Singing,” with singer-songwriter Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies. Last week the two joined about a million of their fellow Canadians for a nationwide sing-along of the song.

The Bowie cover recorded by Hadfield was produced in Los Angeles by Toronto-born producer Joe Corcoran, who did most of the work in Los Angeles.

“I felt pretty lucky that I got included in this,” Corcoran said Monday. “It’s a pretty unique thing to say, ‘We did most of the production here on Earth.’ ”

By "here on Earth," Corcoran means his home in Silver Lake.

A few years ago, Hadfield approached longtime friend and fellow Ontario native Emm Gryner, a singer-songwriter and one-time background vocalist for Bowie, to work up a piano arrangement of “A Space Oddity.” She tapped Corcoran, who had worked with her before, and the project took flight.

The vocals and guitar were recorded in space, and the video, produced by Hadfield’s son, Evan, and Andrew Tidby, was synced with the audio tracks – just as it’s done for music videos here on Earth.  

Hadfield sent a rough track of just the vocals to Corcoran, who mapped the arrangement around it, adding Gryner’s piano and some ambient sounds that Hadfield recorded in the space station. They can be heard swelling through the trippy, expansive interludes of the Bowie classic.

“The funny thing about the process for me is it was really similar to making songs here,” Corcoran said. “A lot of people work from home and they just send sound files back and forth.”

These files took a bit longer, but only because they were routed through NASA channels, Corcoran said. It was glitch-free, otherwise. “I believe he did it on an iPad,” Corcoran said. “It’s really stable. You can get a program that’s pretty simple to use.”

Like any vocalist, Hadfield provided Corcoran with several rough tracks from which to choose. “He’s really a talented musician and quite a guitar player,” Corcoran said.

Gryner agreed. “Chris is a musician and a pretty damn good one at that,” Gryner wrote in her blog. “Over the years we've dueted at my shows -- everything from Lightfoot to Blue Rodeo. Hell, he even stole the show one night when I mistakenly allowed him to play his own song. Never, ever again. Like, ever.”

After the video took off, she heard from her fellow Ontarian: “OMG just got off the phone w @Cmdr_Hadfield who signed off saying 'see ya when I get back to Earth'...and I got chills” Gryner tweeted earlier Monday.

An uneventful landing was not in the cards for the fictional character in David Bowie's 1969 song, best known for its repeated "Ground control to Major Tom," lyric. Major Tom lost communication with Earth and drifted off into space.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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