An Astronaut’s Anthem

An Astronaut’s Anthem

International Space Station commander sings O Canada with fellow Queen’s alum to celebrate Canada Day.

By Dave Rideout

June 29, 2018


Astronaut Drew Feustel playing a guitar while floating through the International Space Station.
International Space Station Commander and Queen's alum Drew Feustel.

Queen’s University hopes to spread some true patriot love this Canada Day weekend with a special musical performance by notable graduates that will surely echo from coast to coast to coast – and from outer space!

In a new video, Queen’s graduate and NASA Commander Drew Feustel (PhD’95, DSc’16) leads a stirring rendition of O Canada from the International Space Station (ISS) as it orbits high above the Earth at over 27,000 kilometres per hour.

“As Commander of the International Space Station, with dual US/Canadian citizenship, I hope that Canada knows that as a nation, there continues to be a strong Canadian presence in human space exploration,” says Dr. Feustel, who sings the opening lines of the national anthem while strumming his guitar in zero gravity.

He is soon joined in song by a chorus of Queen’s graduates, including singer-songwriter Jim Cuddy (Artsci’83, LLD’15) of Blue Rodeo, musical siblings Jill Barber (Artsci’02) and Matthew Barber (Artsci’99), and singer/actress Elena Juatco (Artsci’07) – whose career began on Canadian Idol.

"When I was told about Drew Feustel and the idea for this video, I was so excited to be a part of it,” says Ms. Juatco. “It is no surprise that a Queen's graduate has accomplished something that is literally out of this world. There is also something timeless and hopeful about artists coming together to celebrate the beauty of our country and our planet, and it reminds me to never take any of it for granted.”

Interspersed between shots of the artists recording in studio, the video features views of Dr. Feustel’s work and life aboard the ISS, as well as spectacular footage of Canadian landmarks and landscapes. Together, they speak to both the vastness of Canada and to the wide impact made by Queen’s graduates.

“As a proud Canadian and Queen’s alumna, I was pleased to participate in this intergalactic anthem with some shining musical stars,” says Ms. Barber. “It’s not every day you get to collaborate with someone in outer space.”

Her sentiments were echoed by her brother, Matthew Barber.

“Music has taken me many places over the years but this is the closest I've come to a gig in outer space,” he says. “I loved my time at Queen's and am honoured to be a part of this video celebrating the accomplishments of our astronaut alumnus on Canada Day”

Current student Kento Stratford (Artsci’19) provides piano accompaniment for the video performance, which closes on a Canadian flag blowing in the wind, and a dramatic sunrise as seen from the ISS.

“Queen’s is very proud of the incredible professional feats being accomplished by our talented alumni,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University. “Canada Day provides a great moment to recognize their contributions to Canadian scientific, technological, engineering, arts, and cultural excellence. The heights of their accomplishments are evident around the world – and all the way up to the edge of space.”

Dr. Feustel is the first Canadian astronaut to command the International Space Station since Commander Chris Hadfield’s tenure in 2013. His mission is scheduled for completion in October 2018.

“Canada continues to be prominent in my life and the lives of my family and I am proud be Canadian and consider Canada as a place to call home,” Dr. Feustel says. “Happy Canada Day.”