The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced on September 2, 2010, that astronaut Chris Hadfield will return to space for a third time and become the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station (ISS).
Hadfield will launch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in December 2012, and take command of the station during the second half of a six-month mission. This will be the second long-duration mission for a Canadian astronaut.
As an ISS flight engineer for the mission’s first four months, Hadfield will carry out scientific experiments, robotics tasks and technology demonstrations. As a veteran space-walker, he may be called upon to step out into space to perform tasks around the station. With the rotation of three of the six-member crew in March 2013, Hadfield will assume the role of Commander of Expedition 35.
As ISS Commander, Hadfield will be responsible for the safety of the crew, ongoing operations, maintenance and equipment of the ISS, while ensuring that the scientific experiments are carried out on behalf of Canadian and international scientists. He may also be called upon to operate Canadarm2 to perform assembly and maintenance tasks on the ISS, and to grapple and berth spacecraft to the station.
Hadfield is scheduled to return to Earth in a Soyuz spacecraft, landing in Kazakhstan in June 2013.
Hadfield has achieved a distinguished career in space exploration. He is the only Canadian to board Mir, the Russian Space Station, in 1995 and the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk—a feat accomplished when he attached Canadarm2 to the ISS in 2001.
In anticipation of his next space mission, Chris Hadfield has already started training in Canada, the U.S., and Russia. In 2009, he trained as backup to Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk, who took part in Canada’s first long-duration mission on the ISS.
The CSA will be asking the public to propose science experiments Hadfield can conduct on-orbit. It also intends to engage Canadians in the mission through a variety of activities, especially music – Hadfield is an avid guitar player and intends to make use of the Canadian-built guitar currently on the station. The objective is to inspire young Canadians to turn to science and technology, and choose studies that will allow them to take their place as members of Canada’s next space generation.
The ISS is an orbital laboratory created, maintained and used for science and technology development by Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States. Astronauts are assigned to the ISS for six-month periods which are ideal for studying the long-term effects of weightlessness on the human body. Crew members conduct experiments daily on behalf of scientists on the ground, and the results contribute to new insights into human health issues, improving understanding and control over physical processes that affect many of us. Osteoporosis, maintaining physical conditioning and balance, the long-term effects of radiation, and visual perception are some of the areas of scientific research that have great potential to enhance our quality of life here on Earth. While the science and technological innovation carried out on the ISS has great potential to improve our lives, it will also be applied to future space exploration efforts that will extend humanity’s reach across the solar system