The Soyuz Spacecraft

Since 1967, cosmonauts have been strapping themselves in to the Soyuz spacecraft, blasting off into the atmosphere aloft 102 tons of liquid nitrogen thrust. As the Soyuz rocket hurtles towards space it's a smooth ride—that is until one rocket stage is shed and the next one kicks in, yo-yoing its occupants back and forth.

On their return from space the crew members are packed into the tiny quarters of the Soyuz capsule, which re-enters the Earth's atmosphere in a ball of flame and smoke. Soon after the release of its parachute, the Soyuz hits the barren steppes of Kazakhstan with a heavy thud, capsule scorched but crew intact.

Though at times a rough ride, the Soyuz is recognized as Russia's most reliable and long-serving spacecraft. In fact, it is so entrusted that it is currently the only vehicle to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), and acts as the Station's lifeboat should any emergency arise.

To fly on a Soyuz requires intensive training; for Canadian astronauts, this means not only learning technical aspects but also familiarizing themselves with the Russian language and culture.

In December 2012, Chris Hadfield will put his knowledge and skills to the test when he takes his seat on a Soyuz TMA-M for Expedition 34/35.