From Chris Hadfield's MasterClass

Rockets: The Price of Exploration

"Rockets and spaceflight are dangerous by definition. Learn how astronauts manage their fears and cope with tragedy as Chris had to do after the loss of a friend in the Columbia Space Shuttle mission. "

Topics include: Come to Peace With Risk and Learn From Tragedy • Turn Fear Into Motivation • Move Forward With Optimism


"Rockets and spaceflight are dangerous by definition. Learn how astronauts manage their fears and cope with tragedy as Chris had to do after the loss of a friend in the Columbia Space Shuttle mission. "

Topics include: Come to Peace With Risk and Learn From Tragedy • Turn Fear Into Motivation • Move Forward With Optimism

Chris Hadfield

Teaches Space Exploration

Learn More


MAN: Challenger, go with throttle up. MAN 2: Roger, go with throttle up. MAN 3: This shuttle mission will launch-- My God. There has been an explosion. MAN 4: --2,900 feet per second, altitude nine nautical miles, down range distance 7 nautical miles. MAN 3: This is not standard. This is not something that is planned, of course. I can see a solid rocket booster has broken away from shuttle Challenger. That's what you're looking at in the middle of your screen. I cannot see the shuttle itself. I don't know if it's able to continue on one rocket booster. If it's able to jettison that rocket booster, it will be able to return to the Kennedy Space Center. Perhaps the shuttle engines are not enough to power the shuttle back down. By definition, rockets are dangerous. The real question is, can you make it safe enough and have you made your trade-offs good enough that you think you can trust it either to launch a robot or, in this case, to launch people? And on the space shuttle, it was pretty safe. I flew it twice. But it also killed two crews. We had two horrific accidents with this space shuttle. Both of them essentially caused by trade-offs of the rocket design. In Challenger in 1986, during launch, instead of all of this solid rocket fuel burning properly and coming out the back, you can look at this model and see that it's made of individual segments. They were shipped on rail cars from Promontory, Utah all the way down to Florida and assembled there. And because they're assembled down in Florida, there's just seals in there. And they launched on an extremely cold day. One of those seals failed, and instead of all of the hot explosion coming out the back, a little bit of it started leaking out the side and it cut the strut to the big external tank. And as soon as that strut got cut, the whole vehicle came apart and killed the crew on board. During the Columbia accident in 2003, a piece of the insulating foam of this external tank popped off, came down and hit the wing right here. We needed this insulating foam because the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen inside is so cold, we don't want ice to form on the tank and ice to hit the shuttle. But it's just foam. And every single flight, little bits of foam would come off. But in this case, a piece of foam about the size of a briefcase popped off, hit the left wing and knocked a great big hole in the front of the wing of Columbia. And so when it tried to come back into the atmosphere at the end of the flight, all of that heat of the friction and pressure from the atmosphere, instead of being taken up by the protective Thermo Shield of the shuttle, it got funneled down into the wing and it started melting all the internal structure of the wing. The left wing failed, the vehicle came apart and killed that crew. So there are trade-offs to building rockets. You try and make it as safe as you can, but it's never going to be super safe. MAN 1: All right, uh. Got a little problem on t...

Explore the unknown

Impossible things happen. At age nine, Chris Hadfield knew he wanted to go to space. He eventually went there three times, becoming a commander of the International Space Station. In his MasterClass, Chris teaches you what it takes to explore space and what the future holds for humans in the final frontier. Learn about the science of space travel, life as an astronaut, and how flying in space will forever change the way you think about living on Earth.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Chris takes us through a journey all the way from dreaming to walk on the Moon to Astronaut training to completing a spacewalk in this extremely informative and for me, memorable Masterclass. A definite recommendation!

These lessons provide inspiration. It usually comes in small ways, a phrase or key moment when the teacher is talking. They are starting points for my own imagination.

Loved ever minute of it. Amazing advises for a lifetime.

Am in the middle of writing a Science Fiction Book for Children. But I want to make sure that I get the Science of it and the direct experience of Space correctly. This surely helped. Thank you Chris!


A fellow student

This entire class is so well done. Even talk of the dangers of space exploration is insightful, emotional, and personal.

Ugo A. D.

Pretty emotional. You realize that we are humans and with the great rewards of space flight, comes the potential for disaster. It made me realize that to be an astronaut, you had to have the "right stuff". Science and engineering can only take you so far, the incredible courage and tenacity of these individuals will pave the wave for future generations. I salute you.

Sergio N A.

Chris you are a Spirit driven person. Risk taker with No room for fear, motivated and seek to be competent in what you choose and comes out successful and eager to move forward whatever happens...that is what a human being should be ....from Sergio Andres Jr.


Anything worth doing involves risk? Damn right. And "things aren't scary, people are scared."? Wow--that's really good. I forgot about that the first time I watched this. Learn and evolve...this was a super useful lesson and I'll be coming back to it often. I love how he puts things.

Jim S.

It was nice to have this interlude. I have heard from several astronauts, but I like this one and how he reflects on the loss of his friend the best.

Rachel H.

This just makes me wants to go to space more. I want to be an astronaut more. I want to do what I love. I love space and science

Richard M.

This lesson reminded me of a quote that has always stuck with me through life, "Nothing worth doing is easy" which I later learned is a summary of President Teddy Roosevelt's quote "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…"

Thomas L.

Human and raw to start with, you see the sense of community the astronauts form with one another. Then following that up with competence is fear's antidote was really something special. Thank you for sharing these thoughts Chris!

Jerry R.

The attitude expressed by Chris about fear is eye-opening. I hadn't thought about it that way. For instance, a lot of people would think a cobra with its venom is scary, but actually the venom can be life-saving. Also, the more we know about a scary-something, the more we can deal with it if we have to confront it on a personal basis.

Sandy W.

This was an inspiring and timely lesson for me. His words about grief and choosing to continue and grow and take risks was so heartfelt, sincere and thoughtful. How he continued to weave the theme throughout the entire lesson was masterful. Thank you, Chris.