You could call it a cosmic NHL dream-team. With astronauts from the world's three great hockey powers assembled in orbit, we can only hope Chris Hadfield (Canada), Tom Marshburn (USA), and Roman Romanenko (Russia) take some time out from their five-month mission to knock a puck around while travelling 28,000 km/h.
Of course, when not looking to show once-and-for-all who would rein supreme in an orbital game of shinny, there's the small matter of running dozens of science experiments inside history's largest multinational engineering project.
When Chris Hadfield, Roman Romanenko and Tom Marshburn see their capsule's airlock swing open for International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 34, they'll join Russian Flight Engineers Evgeny Tarelkin, Oleg Novitskiy, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) commander Kevin Ford (who will pass the torch of leadership to Hadfield for Expedition 35) in an adventure borne out of years of training.
Here's a personal look at Chris and the two companions who will share a Volkswagen Beetle-sized Soyuz cabin with him on the way to the world's largest spacecraft.
Pictured on the front row are National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut Kevin Ford (left), Commander; Chris Hadfield, Flight Engineer.
Pictured from the left (back row) are Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy, Evgeny Tarelkin, Roman Romanenko and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, Flight Engineers.
Canadian Space Agency astronaut, Flight Engineer 1 and International Space Station (ISS) Commander
During ISS Expedition 35, Chris Hadfield will become the first Canadian to command a space mission (and only the second non-Russian/non-American to be in charge of a large-scale orbital crew.)
In addition to serving as a real-life 'Captain Kirk', presiding over a mission of scientific exploration, Chris will have a chance to explore one of his other passions.
When not on duty, the Sarnia, Ontario native will jam with a Canadian Larivée guitar around the station's 2-metre wide Cupola window assembly, writing music and lyrics inspired by his latest stay in space. While in orbit, Chris and Barenaked Ladies lead singer Ed Robertson hope to perform the song that they co-wrote for Music Monday 2013, with Ed in Toronto as Chris soars overhead on the ISS.
Russian Space Agency cosmonaut, Soyuz 33 Commander and International Space Station (ISS) Flight Engineer
Roman Romanenko grew up with the Russian space program all around him... literally: His father Yury Romanenko flew two missions to the early Salyut space outposts and one of the first missions to the completed Mir space station.
While his dad was orbiting the Earth, Roman attended and graduated from Star City high school, before becoming an Air Force pilot at the age of 21.
According to fellow Expedition 20/21 crew members (including Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk and inaugural Canadian space tourist Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté), Roman has a wicked sense of humour:
During a live linkup from the ISS for a 2009 U2 concert, Romanenko questioned front man Bono,
"I want to ask you something. If you see David Gahan from Depeche Mode, say a big hello from me," Romanenko joked of U2's fellow 80s alternative rock band. "He had such an amazing haircut," Bono said.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut, Soyuz and International Space Station (ISS) Flight Engineer
When you're an E.R. doctor, the bumps and bruises of space travel – from bone loss to spacesuits that fit so tight you get cut up just putting them on – would likely phase you less than the average astronaut (if there is such a thing.)
But more than being an astronaut with advanced medical training, Tom Marshburn is a product of small town America and the ideals of NASA's astronaut training program.
"I don't know how many places you can still today just hop on your bike and ride to downtown to go get a milkshake or walk with your brothers and sisters to the movie theatre from your house," says Marshburn about his sleepy, All-American hometown of Statesville, North Carolina. "My childhood is full of those memories and just the friendliness of the people around there," he says.
Marshburn, who flew to the ISS with Canadian astronaut Julie Payette on shuttle mission STS-127, spent 10 years as a medical doctor and 10 years as a NASA flight surgeon before being selected into the astronaut program.
Assembling the team
Pictured on the front row are Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield (right) and Flight Engineer Pavel Vinogradov.
On the back row, from left, are Flight Engineers Alexander Misurkin, Chris Cassidy, Roman Romanenko and Tom Marshburn.
As with others, that selection process took into account exemplary educational and career achievements and the ability to pass a number of physical tests before rigorous interviews and training exercises.
The final process of pairing Hadfield with Marshburn and Romanenko involved selecting three astronauts with the sum total talents required for this mission – along with the other astronauts they'll share the ISS with, including Expedition 35/36's Pavel Vinogradov, Chris Cassidy – who also flew with Julie Payette and Tom Marshburn on shuttle mission STS-127 – and Alexander Misurkin, who will join them during the latter half of their stay. Hadfield is very well acquainted with cosmonaut Vinogradov as they trained together for respective missions to the Russian Mir Space Station in the mid-nineties. After nearly 20 years since those early days, they will be coming full circle to work together again, share what they've learned and take their turns to command the ISS.
While many of an astronaut's talents are technical and scientific, other elements include personality compatibility, mental health, linguistic ability and team dynamics. In this sense, it's been nothing but clear skies for the Expedition 34/35 crew and their cohorts.