Mission Objectives

On Behalf of a Nation: Hadfield to Command the Space Station

On December 19, 2012, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield lifted off above the barren plains of Kazakhstan en route to the International Space Station (ISS). He made the sprawling orbital laboratory his home for five months, working alongside eight American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts as they conducted science experiments, tested new technologies, berthed commercial re-supply craft with Canadarm2 and carried out a spacewalk.

Trusted with crucial responsibilities

Hadfield talks about his Soyuz training during a simulator run with his crewmates, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian Space Agency cosmonaut Roman Romanenko in Star City, Russia. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

YouTube Video

Hadfield, who has earned distinctions as the first Canadian to operate the Space Shuttle's Canadarm in space and the nation's first to walk in space, also served as the first Canadian commander of the ISS. During the launch and two-day trip to the Space Station, Hadfield was strapped into a Russian Soyuz capsule, just to the left of spacecraft skipper Roman Romanenko and National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Tom Marshburn. As the "left seater," Hadfield was Romanenko's back up ready to shoulder the Soyuz piloting role if circumstances warrant—a demanding responsibility that Hadfield began to train for a decade ago.

"If the commander gets appendicitis, I must fly the vehicle by myself," he explained.

Hadfield became fluent in Russian in order to achieve proficiency in multiple variants of the recently upgraded Soyuz capsule.

Hadfield poses in front of the new commercial SpaceX Dragon resupply capsule. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

As the newcomers docked with the Station, they were greeted by Expedition 34 commander Kevin Ford, of NASA, and Russians Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin. Hadfield served as a Station flight engineer until Ford's crew departed in March 2013, signaling the start of Expedition 35.

On March 3, Hadfield assisted Ford and Marshburn in the capture of the free-flying SpaceX Dragon capsule. He then took Canadarm2 controls for the capsule's berthing onto the Station. Astronauts are trained to reach out with Canadarm2 to grab and berth unpiloted supply craft – a skill referred to as "track and capture".  The new US commercial cargo capsule known as Cygnus originally planned to be launched during the mission was delayed.

A few days prior to Expedition 35 departure, an ammonia leak was detected on the exterior of the ISS. On May 11, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn and Chris Cassidy got into their spacewalking suits and performed the only mission spacewalk. Hadfield working as the Intra-vehicular expert from inside the Station, supported the astronauts as they replaced a leaky pump in just under three hours. Hadfield was also the Systems Lead for the Station's European and Japanese science modules and worked on science experiments on behalf of Canadian scientists during the mission.

In space, someone will hear you sing

Ed Robertson and Chris Hadfield will premiere a new song from space. (Credit: CBC Music)

As an accomplished rhythm guitarist and vocalist who regularly performs with two astronaut bands, Hadfield had ambitious plans for his leisure moments. He even chose the shape of a guitar pick for his official Canadian patch.

When time permited, Hadfield retreated to the cupola, the Station's domed observation deck with a Canadian Larrivee guitar and production gear, already stowed aboard the outpost. Hadfield had plans to record songs composed with his brother Dave, a musician in his own right. Along with the Barenaked Ladies' Ed Robertson, he also co-wrote the official song for Music Monday 2013 to celebrate music education. This initiative was part of a new partnership between CBC Music, the Coalition for Music Education and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) that literally took the annual Music Monday celebration to new heights.