August 17, 2013 - 8:30 AM
NEXT STOP: SPACE
KAMLOOPS – He walks into a packed cafe on Victoria Street, a little uncomfortable with the attention he attracts in his big white suit, but Astro HAL has been doing this for 151 days now and he is getting used to the stares and smiles that accompany many of his outings.
Today he is asked not only about why he is wearing an astronaut suit, but also who his favourite science fiction authors are—which is a first.
“People kind of do a double-take and usually just burst into a smile, or laugh, or give me a thumbs up or something,” Hal (Friesen when he's out of his suit) says of the typical reactions he receives. “A very small percentage of people are scared.”
Astro HAL has made headlines across the country for the giant leaps the man is taking for a chance to go to space in the AXE Apollo Space Academy contest. He's not the typical guy you see in an Axe commercial. The writer, researcher and self-professed nerd breaks into a big smile when two women ask for pictures with him Friday. These interactions help him break out of his introverted shell over the past five months. He hopes it motivates people to vote for him.
He donned an astronaut costume for the first time back in March and every day since, taking part in Zumba and yoga classes (see video below), making television appearances, attending festivals, going on water slides and even snowboarding.
Known for wearing costumes regularly, his family was only slightly shocked by his announcement he would be wearing one for nearly six months in an effort to win a chance to go to space.
“The costume part of it is not that outrageous, but wearing it every day is,” he says with a smile. “My mom said when I was little I had a Batman costume I didn't want to take off and she says this is like an extension of that.”
Currently living in Edmonton, Friesen visited his father at the Thompson-Nicola Regional District office to drum up support. He's wanted to go to space since he was a little kid. He says his approach to the contest is to have some fun with it.
“Other people in the contest were saying 'I'm smart enough, physically fit enough,' and I was like what makes me special enough? I realized the big thing is community outreach,” Friesen says. “I wanted to add another level than just 'vote for me, vote for me,' I wanted to make it fun, make it so people got something out of it too.”
He will continue to wear the costume every day until the end of the month (yes the suit can, and has been, washed) when the contest ends. The top two Canadian vote getters will get to go to space camp where they will experience real astronaut training and then compete for a chance to join an international crew on a trip to space with a space tourism company in 2014.
Astro HAL stops for pictures with fans during his stop in Kamloops Friday morning.
(JENNIFER STAHN /InfoTel Multimedia)
Video Credit: Hal Friesen
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013